As an adult, I found the courage to go to the attic room where we keep the boxes. Generations of boxes, each one small and carefully locked. The keys are thrown away. Each box holds a skin, that was taken in the first few days after birth. It’s the only way.
The only way to do what, exactly, no one ever says.
In place of the skin that cannot be kept, we have to make our own. Mine is fashioned from sackcloth, but into the holes I have woven flowers, feathers, bits of string. Spiders find me habitable.
My box has my name on it. I brought a screwdriver, and took out the hinges instead of fretting over the lock. Even so, I had to prise it open. It smelled of dust, and for a moment I thought there would be nothing there, that my skin would have rotted away years ago. I put a hand in, and what seemed like spider webs turned out to have slightly more substance. A tiny, fragile baby skin, soft to the touch, shimmery like moonlight on water.
The skin I am not allowed.
I took off the sackcloth, although it hurt to do so. Flesh grown into fabric, in order to survive. I bled on the dusty floor. I realised I had always been bleeding, somewhere under the fake skin. With raw and seeping hands I picked up my baby skin again, barely large enough to cover my face. Not enough to wear into the world. But it is my skin, as the sackcloth never was.
If this is a fairy tale, then by some miracle, that silvery lost self will grow back, and fit over these flayed shoulders, allowing me to become myself.
In my family, we take off our skins when we enter the world. No one says why, only that there is no other way.