Hand Rash

Charlotte McManus

CAS for Database

Homewood, Illinois

Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School

Fiction

          My anxiety has given me all sorts of wonderful gifts. A rash on my hands, for one. It only shows for the most nerve-racking occasions: my wedding day, my grandmother’s funeral, when I got a different hairdresser. I’ve also developed a feisty twitch in my right eye, a line of canker sores on my bottom gum, and a habit of pacing around the kitchen at strange hours of the night. Some nights—nights when Luca sleeps lightly enough—he comes into the kitchen and puts his hands on my face, and he shakes me, tells me to Stop worrying! in this laughing, exasperated voice of his, and leads me to bed where I lie awake till dawn.


          Sometimes, I lie there worrying that if I fall asleep, Luca will be gone when I wake up. I will call the police, thinking he has been murdered or stolen by some terrible group who robs wives of their husbands. Worst-case scenario, I call and they tell me they have found an arm somewhere that looks just like his. Just his arm, and then maybe his eye, though it’s been stomped on so many times it might also be a soggy cotton ball. In the second worst-case scenario, I call and Luca picks up. I call and Luca says I knew you’d call here, you stupid fucking whore in a voice that is entirely not Luca’s but more evocative of Darth Vader’s, and he tells me he has finally left his nervous wife for another woman— for a more slender, less stubborn woman, someone with long legs who wears red dresses and smokes cigarettes.


          And then Luca wakes up. He rolls over and rests his hand on my cheek and says Good morning in his own voice. Because he is a good man, and he loves me, and over the course of the night I’d forgotten.


          And Luca loves me. He does. I remember our wedding day, back when I was thinner, looking like someone more fit for love. And I was so nervous I thought I would faint. I told my mother between gasps to get Luca, to just go get Luca, and she did. But she didn’t want him to see me in my wedding dress before the ceremony—she’s not even that superstitious, just a divorcée—so she wrapped his tie around his head, a sort of makeshift blindfold, and sat him down next to me.


          I was terrified then, but of course I laugh about it now: there I was, in my wedding dress, struggling to take a breath, and Luca, tie around his head, holding my rashy hands.


EDITORIAL PRAISE

After about a year editing for Polyphony Lit, “Hand Rash” remains close to my heart, and I’m not sure I’ll ever forget this simple yet beautiful love story. Although written with a modern and often dark humor, this piece is filled to the brim with optimism and love. After reading it, you’ll know what I mean when I say everyone needs a Luca in their life.

Charlotte McManus is a senior (Class of 2021) at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Illinois. Her dearest accomplishments include a Gold Medal from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and writing for her school newspaper. She has very rashy hands.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR