Aline Soules

A woman's skin dries into parchment, yellow, wrinkled, brittle. People look at the open space and start to write. Someone scrawls, “I think, therefore I am” on her leg. Another writes, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” on her back. “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” circles her nipple. “All men by nature desire to know” sits above her pubic hair. Someone starts a story on her arm, but doesn’t finish.

Her skin begins to itch. She erases the ink, showers off the faint marks of what remains, but people write again: “Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds” on her forehead, “Truth is always a delusion” on the nape of her neck, “Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love” around her waist. She falls asleep to find that someone has painted over this with white latex and written instead:  “I hate love. Hate being in love. I never want it to happen to me again.”

She erases and scrubs — ink, paint, the pores of her skin. She decides to get a tattoo so she will have something permanent that might make people stop:  “Men should be saying, 'I want to become a woman.'”  But it doesn't work and people keep writing on her. She walks around with her tattoo for a long time, even as people write more and more, creeping over her tattoo. They write; she scrubs. They write; she scrubs harder. The tattoo remains.

They question her:  “Why should a man want to become a woman?”  

“Because ‘Woman is the future of man’,” she replies, but the questions keep coming, so she has the tattoo removed.

She decides to start a newspaper.  Each day, she covers her body with newsprint and they write.  She removes it at night, washes off what bleeds through to her skin, and publishes their words in the next day’s newspaper. Some people begin to pay her for the newspaper, to admire their own clever sayings that appear in its pages, and to look first for the words they have written themselves.

The newspaper begins to circle the world, but when it does, other people complain. They do not like what is written there. They disagree; they argue; they castigate and reject. “Heathen,” says one. “Sacrilege,” says another. They travel many miles to find her and write things she no longer wants to print. “Evil people will suffer from other evil-doers,” someone writes on her eyeball. “Evil be to him who evil thinks,” another writes on the palm of her hand. She shuts down the newspaper and hides in a cave, waiting for the furor to die down.

When she comes out, she sees the sun. “Woman is the sun, an extraordinary creature, one that makes the imagination gallop,” a friend writes. A line of people, stretching to the horizon, walk towards her with pens and pencils, markers and paints. She looks up at the sun, blindingly white. Pinpricks of light, like stars, dance in front of her eyes as the colors split like prisms.  

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