Skin Hungry

Mialise Carney

I’m sorry, I know I said I stopped going to deathcore shows when you found out how I was really spending my weekends—not visiting my ailing mother but going to gritty shows alone at the Royale. You said you couldn’t love someone so angry. I promised to stop, even though you didn’t ask me why I went in the first place, like I didn’t ask you why it took two years and bottle of wine to tell me you’ll never love me like your fiancé, even though I’m alive and he died trying to save a family from a burning split-level six years ago. 

          I did try. I went cold-turkey, listened to self-help podcasts, browsed online quizzes instead of upcoming tour dates. But this thing inside me gnawed at my guts until I couldn’t sit still or resist the urge to pick at my skin and throw things during our small fights. I was skin hungry so after a few weeks, I went online and bought the first ticket I saw.

          I want to explain it to you. On show nights, I leave the office early to take the trolley up north. I can’t go home, where you spend your days wrapped in a blanket composing classical music for car commercials, so I go straight there. I don’t mind that I’m out of place among the fishnets and faux leather in my blush-colored sweaters and flats because I hide in the gloomy restroom through the soft stuff, poorly tuned guitars, and bad screams. You think I go there to forget you, to act like an animal, but I imagine telling you what innocent, awful things girls say as they wash their hands, about how the music passes through my body, energetic and unstoppable. But I can’t, so I feed it to the creature in my throat.

          I feel so guilty I almost leave, but then a clear scream shivers through the stalls. High-pitched and certain, it pulls me like a hook toward the crowd. I want it, the hands and the noise all over my skin, so I swim through the drum kicks, the pressure aching in my ears like the depths of a pool, and I sink lower. The crowd is a humid wall of excitement I need to push through but I love the anticipation, the struggle to get inside the circle pit, a place hot and buzzing like a new plane of existence.

          I shove my way through bouncing teens and grizzled metalheads until I’m baptized in mossy breath and a windmill of elbows, a pulsing current of skin and bones. The louder the music, the faster we go, palms pressed against clammy backs, fingers wrapping around hair and hips, lips tripping against slimy skin. We stumble to the ground before god-hands raise us, send us twirling, giddy and bruised, back into the raging. The release sends me laughing and wild and I love it, that I can scream what I want and nobody can hear—inside the circle pit, we’re nameless, faceless, a body melting into a great chaos.

          It’s not awful like you think it is. Not awful like last New Year’s when you smiled up at me, wine-drunk and laughed in my face. I would never love you like I love him, you said as the ball dropped, twinkling and distorted by the discount projector, across your heart-shaped face. The entire East Coast cheered while you laughed and I swallowed the ugliest, black hole of shame and birthed a needy creature in my stomach. You raised the bottle and took another drink and I saw in your eyes, so sly and soft like a child emerging from sleep, that I would never be loved like your dead man. That nobody would adore me as you adored him. 

          That moment hurt but it didn’t hurt so much because you were drunk and it was New Year’s. I didn’t think you’d say yes anyway, but what made me want to break things between my palms, what made me wild among strangers at deathcore shows was how, in the morning, you didn’t take it back. You slipped on his engagement ring, newly shined and sparkling in the clear morning light. After, we didn’t talk of breaking up, but now you sleep on the edge of the bed, and avoid looking at me unless you have to, so I go to the circle pit and I clash and thrash and hold any stranger I want until I am so tired and full nobody could break me in their mouth. 

          I knew you caught me again after the last show because you were awake, waiting beneath the kitchen light, stoic and disappointed, with a fleece blanket around your shoulders. You said you called my mother and she said she hadn’t seen me in months, so if I wasn’t visiting her, where was I spending my nights? 

          Swaying touch-drunk and satisfied, I told you that I was going to deathcore shows. I tried to explain why I go, for the bashing and the holding, the sticky meeting and parting of bodies and hands, and your eyes got misty. You told me he would never have done that, lie to you. Where he was soft and honest, I was hardened and hungry. I scared you in ways he never did.

          While you cried and caressed your memory of him in our bed, I fell asleep on the couch, my ears ringing, a brown-noise blank. And even alone, on the couch in the dark, I could still feel those hands all over my skin, holding me like I was worthy, like I was easy to love.

Mialise Carney is a writer and MFA candidate at California State University, Fresno. She is the senior fiction editor at The Normal School, and her writing has appeared in Hobart, Barren Magazine, and The Boiler, among others. Read more of her work at

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