Second Skin

I am not an easy man to like.

I was less likable in college. Less able to cover my self-interest with a candy-coated shell of easy-going respectability. My wife Connie, my daughter Sara, my friends, my co-workers, they look at the shell during our backyard bar-b-ques, our weekend bicycle rides. They look at the shell and are satisfied, and look no further. Everyone likes candy, right?


My senior year in college I slept with a girl who had just lost her mind. Really. Her name was Rachael. Her roommate had taken out a Ouija board after a few too many bong hits, a few too many kamakazies, and I don’t know, I wasn’t paying too much attention when she told me all this, but some dead girl with black doll eyes had apparently shown up in her brain and grabbed her wrist and tried to pull her through the board. I know, it doesn’t make much sense, but again, I was distracted by trying to get into her pants, and may have gotten some of the details wrong. I showed up a couple hours later, in the dorm, and heard it all then. She was by herself in the lounge area, crying. She told me her story, I sympathized, held her hand, dried her tears, rubbed her back.

The sex was surprisingly hot. I’d been expecting her to just go through the motions, get it over with. But she was really into it.

At one point I said her name, I moaned “Rachael,” and she moaned back, “I’m not Rachael,” and I didn’t laugh, though I wanted to. She was one fucked up girl.

I hung out with her awhile Saturday morning, to be nice, but avoided her calls and her knocks at my door the remainder of the weekend. When she showed up in my Monday morning Ethics class unannounced, staring at me with all that cheap mascara running down her face, I broke it off. Dumped her.

She dropped out of college a couple weeks later. I finished out the term, got my degree, got a job, got married, had a kid, the whole enchilada. Built that candy coated shell around my skin until it became my second skin.

I never saw her again.

Until last night.

When I dreamt I was back in college, shaving, and looked in the mirror and saw her face. And she said “Remember me?” and laughed. “Are you Rachael?” I asked. “I’m whoever you want me to be, baby,” she cooed, and her eyes turned into black doll eyes, and she reached through the mirror for my hand. I screamed, and dropped the razor. And woke up.

“Are you alright?” asked my wife.

No, would be the short answer. But I said nothing.

I see her face, and her dead black eyes, all day today. In the sunny glare of random store windows, the rear view mirror of my car, the refection in my daughter’s bathwater, the shine of my wife’s earrings. I avoid the eyes of my co-workers, my family.


Tonight: I go to tuck my lovely little girl into bed, my child, my treasure, the only truly beautiful thing in my life.

“Good night, Sara,” I tell her, kissing her on the forehead, dizzy with love.

“I’m not Sara,” she says, and reaches for me.


Jeff Wood  Jeff Wood's website is a writer living in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, two daughters, and many cats. He’s had 20 short stories published in print anthologies and online publications such as Camas: The Nature of the West, Fiction at Work, Six Sentences, The Greyrock Review, Ark, Boston Phoenix, New York Press, Java Journal, and Clifton. He also has a children’s play included in the anthology CHILDSPLAY.

Other works by Jeff Wood