Barry Smith: Irrelativity | AspenTimes.com
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Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

There’s a tiny bit of skin dangling inside of my lip. It happens. You know, you eat things, you chew things, you talk a lot, the next thing you know there’s just a tiny bit of dangling skin. Like a hangnail ” on your lip.

It’s torn back a little bit, so it’s dangling more than it usually would. I just did this tearing with my teeth. Before that it was a small little flap, easily ignorable. Easily ignorable, that it, unless you’re me. Or, more specifically, unless you’re my teeth.

I’ve peeled it back just a little bit, ever so slightly, half a millimeter at the most, and I already can tell that it’s not going to go peacefully. No, it won’t tear off into a neat little bite-sized niblet that I can happily chew between my opposing canine teeth for the next few minutes, soothing myself with that sticky click that it makes, soothing and meditative like squishing clay between my fingers.

No. That’s not how it’s going to happen.

My years of lip-skin chewing tell me that it’s going to tear toward the place where more skin exists. It will create a little divot on the inside of my lip. Not a lot, but it’ll hurt. There’ll be blood.

I don’t like hurt. I have no need to punish myself. I like myself. No desire to mutilate or scar or be a bad, bad little boy. No. And I don’t like blood, not the sight or the taste or really even the idea. I’m fully aware that it’s crucial to my well being that my blood stay inside my skin, and I’m good with that. No curiosity there. No repressed desires or attempts at closure.

No, I just really, really want this little piece of skin.

Want is the key word here. I know I don’t actually need it. This little bit of skin isn’t putting me in any harm, is in no way inconvenient ” basically I could carry my life on happily with it there, dangling. And it probably wouldn’t dangle forever. The human body has amazing healing abilities. If I just left it alone for a few days it would probably reattach itself to the majority of my lip, forming a stronger bond than ever before. Yet I know that, within less than a minute, I’ll bite it, it’ll tear, I’ll bleed. But I’ll have my little piece of skin to nibble on for a few minutes before it is pulverized back into nothingness.

And, make what you will of this, it’ll all be worth it. Yum.

It’s a self-replicating addiction, this lip chewing. You can run out of cigarettes, gum, crack, etc. … but you’ll never run out of lip skin. As long as I keep eating and drinking water, my body will keep producing new skin. I plan on doing both of those things. This may well be the perfect nervous habit.

I wish I could resist, but I know myself well enough to not even consider it. Resist? Ha! My resisting won’t buy me more than a minute of time. And not relaxed time, either. No, time that could easily be spent chomping on this precious sliver of lip. When I find myself in this position, as I so often do, I sometimes contemplate resisting as a personal Zen practice, to control my body, a bit of lip yoga, but I don’t even bother to ponder the pondering of the contemplation for too long. It’s useless. It’s like contemplating putting my head underwater for 20 minutes. Too ludicrous to even entertain.

No, that skin will be mine.

Now, in fact.

I’ve talked about it way too long.

Ahhhh …

Now what?

(Next time: There’s a tiny bit of skin on my toe …)


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