Me and the Fish Attached to My Skin
I live afloat in the ocean with fish attached to my skin. As long as I have been here, I’ve had two fish attached my shoulders and they have never let go. The longer I’m out here, the more fish attach to my body.
Sometimes fish decide we should go our separate ways. Some fish let go of my skin and it’s painless. But the fish I love the most will take pieces of my body, leaving holes for the saltwater around me to heal. As the saltwater heals the wound, it stings, burns, and hurts.
I once had a couple of fish that I liked attach to my chest. One had to let go and it brought a patch of my skin with it. The wound burned for a while, before a different fish attached in the same spot. It stung much more than I expected, and that fish could tell. So it swam away and never tried to attach anywhere else on my body. That hurt differently. It would have been a nice replacement.
Another fish on my chest ripped away a piece of my body and let the water fill in my chest like a pool. The saltwater burned like fire. It was the most painful wound I had ever felt. I wondered why the fish had ever attached if it would just tear me apart. I wondered why all the fish except for the fish on my shoulders bothered to attach if they would just let go.
I decided I would have no more fish attach. That meant the fish on my shoulders had to go. They could never choose to leave; they just had to.
I ripped the fish on my right shoulder away, along with a piece of my body. The hole burnt like Hell, more than the hole in my chest. The fish on my left shoulder carefully let go, not taking any part of my skin, but didn’t swim away. The fish from my right shoulder put my shoulder together and waited for the saltwater to heal me. The healing process hurt because I just wanted the fish to be gone. I just wanted my body to come apart so I wouldn’t have to feel anymore.
As my shoulder fused back together, the fish came closer and the fish on my left shoulder attached to me again. The fish I ripped off hesitated to try again. I was hesitant too. But my fondness of this fish that chose to stay made me reconsider.
So, when we were ready, the fish carefully reattached to my shoulder, deeper than ever.
I have holes and wounds that may never heal. The fish I was most fond of may remember me with the parts they took or maybe not. But there are always fish on my shoulders, and they will always be there, even if I tell them to go.
Audrey Renner is an Overland Park, Kansas native. She studies Creative Writing at Full Sail University.