Hairy Palms by John Vanderslice


During first period World History, Jeremy stares at them and realizes for the first time how ugly and stupid they are: canyons of pale pink skin, canopies strung from the more necessary structure of his hands. They exist only to cover up and hold back, to disguise with sunny fleshiness what lies deeper and more fundamentally within: what has to do with human nature, and specifically his nature. Not the skeleton. Whatever the opposite of skeleton is. Because that’s what occurs to him now: he has a skeleton in his body, dead pieces of bone snapped together like tinker toys, while the real him, the Jeremy at heart, has to lug this heavy stranger through the whole long day—seven periods of school, soccer practice, a dinner of bloody beef and undercooked rice, two hours of television, three hours at his desk before open textbooks—and then a long night of rolling and sweating and fighting himself on his mattress. Fighting his need, fighting his imagination, fighting his imagined need and how he ever imagines it will feel, which it sometimes does but not often; not the way it does in his imagination. Skeleton vs. Jeremy.

It occurs to him for the first time that those soon-to-arrive bristles—kniving and reddish and sprouting through the peach soft skin—might not only be seen as brutish growth, not only evidence that his parents can use as ammunition for their horror masks and their shaking heads and their lamentations against contemporary youth, but might be an improvement, a small gain for the guilt he must endure, a small sign of what soul-knowledge and soul-strengthening the Jeremy-at-heart has earned for his torture. That non-skeletal, quaking, restless, self-abusive person. To say nothing of a tad more warmth in winter.