Intimacy can be shown in the strangest ways,
particularly in a loving family,
like when my sister asked me to pop a blackhead
on her left shoulder which she’d been trying to get,
but which stayed buried like a stubborn vein of gold.
In hindsight it’s plain that this was a sign of love,
or my sis wouldn’t have said that in front of you;
years of short conversations and interactions,
culminated in this simple sign of comfort.
How else could a model be so openly gross?
We assumed a few positions, strategizing,
questioning and answering, trying to find out
how best to release that loathsome little treasure.
You assumed your position: passive observer,
occasionally bringing up bits of gossip.
Then that unusual, unexpected breakthrough.
“Will you pop these two blackheads on my lower lip
when we get home? They’ve been there for a couple weeks.
I can’t get them and they are driving me crazy.
I’m surprised you haven’t noticed them; they’re like fangs.”
The souls of your conventional and fucked parents
must have shivered and twitched from cold and frosty dread,
wondering how their conventional and fucked girl
could conceive of something so disgusting and vile,
and then turn that conception into spoken words.
“Sure.” My remembered answer comes with a big sigh,
a recollected weakness and shame for lacking
the strength to be honest and admit my blindness:
inability to look at you anymore.
I wouldn’t have noticed if you’d grown a third eye.
Later at home in our tiny little kitchen,
with spring twilight and sounds of a neighbor’s party
streaming in through the open windows and doorways,
I popped the blackhead on the left with a loud crack,
a little volcano erupting and dying.
You started and sighed and gasped in shock and relief.
Then came the identical blackhead on the right,
but we all know looks are hopelessly deceiving.
A black head emerged followed by a long dark tail.
After we both scrutinized it I washed my hands.
Some months later our marriage was a memory.
This lingering sadness tethered to that moment,
our last articulation of intimacy,
not some passionate bullshit scripted for tv,
but a simple, pure, proof that we were family.
Mark Anthony Herrera has a degree in mathematics and another degree in law. At one time he was a graduate student at Harvard but left under mysterious circumstances. He’s fortunate enough to teach for a living. In his free time he writes and makes sounds with his saxophones and flute.