The Color of My Skin

Crystal Cove, California © Lindsay Linegar 2018

I lay in the bath.

I contemplate the color of my skin.

I raise my hands out of the water and see them contrasted against the stark white tub. I try to identify the color of my skin.

I turn my hands over and examine a different shade. I turn them back over and bring them closer to study the elements and patterns.

Lines, freckles, hair follicles, clear nails revealing evidence of a pink interior. What color do you see through your finger nails?

I run my fingers over the creases inside my wrist. I stretch my hands back out in front of me.

Different shades — the darkest resembling that of a lioness. I settle on a color.

Tan, I’d say.

I was born *white*.

I had no say in the matter. If I had, I might have chosen turquoise. I might have included areas of skin that change colors in a flash of sunlight.

© Lindsay Linegar 2016

Like an Anna’s Hummingbird, my neck would appear to be hot pink when exposed to the sun. And there would be orange specks sprinkling my face.

All of my skin would shimmer, and I would never have to worry about being sunburned or breaking out in acne or being attacked by skin cancer.

If you cared to look, you would find patterns and words written on my skin. Swirls and flowers and zigzags and dots and feathers.

I’m trying to be human, my skin would say. I fail quite often, but I’m trying. I want to love, my skin would say. I fail quite often, but I’m trying.

My skin is making me question everything.

I could be a million different people to a million different people, based on one glance. See lioness colored skin: file away in specified category in brain. White girl — and whatever that means to so and so.

This is what we do, right?

I myself like to claim I’m above it. Then I remind myself of similar subtle thoughts that move through my mind when I see someone of a different skin color, or the “same”.

Certain narratives have been passed down about each other for how long now? I can’t blame us, entirely, though I do rejoice when I hear stories from a mind awakened.

Lately I’ve been feeling insecure in my white skin, and wondering if this is part of the atonement.

Then I wonder, who am I to have a voice in this? I don’t know how to say this, really. How ignorant am I, still?

I didn’t choose this skin, but I’m grateful for it.

It protects me from the elements. It keeps my heart safe and warm inside my ribs, free to beat life. It lets me know when I’m being threatened by the bitter cold or fire too close.

It recognizes passion from another human and sends vibrations of ecstasy through my being at the touch of an electric kiss. It transmits feelings of joy at the motion of a breeze or the warmth of the sun.

The earth is in my skin.

My skin has known water from three oceans. I once dipped a finger in the River Nile to ensure my return to South Sudan. This skin has felt the cool waters of Lake Kivu to the Adriatic Sea to Tuolumne River.

My skin has known dirt from three continents. I once walked barefoot through my neighborhood in Juba, just to feel the earth beneath me. This skin has absorbed dust from the deserts of Egypt to the wild cliffs of Ireland to the rugged coasts of California.

My skin is layered. Cells and tissue and fat and follicles. Words written for those who care to see. Assumptions and labels and insecurities. Keeper of memories and stories. Evidence of a life lived.

Proof of my humanity.

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