Pilgrims Beware (Mine Is No Holy Land)

by Charlotte E. Wilde

I remember when we sat for hours until you memorized the Braille of my skin and your fingers paused to painstakingly study every flaw. You counted the inches between my throat and collarbone and took my pulse with your fingers, pressed your ear to my chest to count out the beats and rhythm of me like a metronome. I remember when we lay twisted together like candy cane stripes stuck fast to that in-between space of hazy minded exploration that felt us drop off into sleep even as nerves quivered and reverberated at the lightest touch. I remember how your hands wrote contradictions on my side before suddenly relaxing into slumber that shrouded the truths written upon my ribs.

I remember how your fingers twitched in sleep as though lost along some route to a pilgrimage marked absolution but easily confused with the road to perdition. The traces of that careful voyage plotted for posterity lingered along valleys and mountains of soft skin and taut muscle but lost their way in the half-hearted markings of landmarks that were never meant to restore sight to the blind or push statues to stony tears. Mine is no holy land; on the route to salvation many of us simply lose our way, as did you, as did I.

Despite questioning hands secrets endure, untamed and perilous to those who would seek to find in the skin of another the transcendence of a deliverance it cannot yield. Still, I remember when you memorized the Braille of my skin and catalogued flaws in your notebook and mind. As you counted the inches between chin and collarbone I memorized the shape of your fingerprints, the weight of your gaze, mapped the paths travelled so that I too might follow your footsteps, that I too might attempt the long road home.

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