I am shedding. Layers of translucent skin, white and ragged, scrape off as I wriggle my fingers.
Last week, I could barely use my hands, they had so reacted to the delicate toxins of the poison ivy plant. The skin between my fingers swelled up until my hands looked like they belonged in a Harry Potter book, a reaction to a spell or a potion gone wrong. When the itching drove me crazy, I held my hands under hot water. The hot water made the itching even worse, an intense urgency that is borderline erotic, but then when I pulled my hands away from the heat, I could feel the relief, sort of like the chemicals that come after a good cry or sex.
I've read that you should never break the blisters, but when some of them puffed to the size of kidney beans, I considered taking a sterilized needle to them. Of course, I did not have the patience to find the sewing kit or sterilize a needle -- I am not a patient person even when I don't have a weird itching rash all over my body -- so instead I took a thumbtack out of a band poster in the boys' room and popped the blisters with that. Yeah, all the oozing fluid was a bit disgusting, but at least I could close my fingers again.
Poison ivy rash keeps me awake on a hot August night, making me toss and turn and think about all about all the usual demons that come in the dark of the night -- doubts, insecurities, stupid mistakes. It's as if the plant knows how to trigger the fear and sadness trapped just under our skin.
But now, more than a week later, the skin is sloughing off, peeling away. The edges hurt, even after I soften my skin in the shower, and yet, it seems miraculous. All the soreness, the puffiness, the angry red welts have disappeared.
And underneath grows clear new skin, the colour of spring petals, smooth and beautiful.