The Truth’s in the Dirt

There is only Truth in the Dirt.

I took a bath tonight, and bored and not having a magazine within arms-reach, I stared at my legs for a long time, weirdly transfixed, like you do at one of those magic eye paintings that I can never really do anyway.
Not that I haven’t really looked at my legs before: every day I have a daily inspection to see how my psoriasis, which covers 30% of them, is doing.
Barely noticeable pink blemishes = good day. White scabs that have cracked and bled = bad day.
The top side of my legs are mostly free from it, or so it appears in the bath, when the water has made a lot of it translucent, and how all I see instead are 5 or 6 sun spots, where I damaged my skin from 2nd degree burns a year ago. An hour and a half without sunscreen is all it took get coin sized blisters, and 3 weeks later, when the bandages were off, I discovered I had also burnt most of my psoriasis off the top side of my legs.
Does it count as a win? If I’m surely going to get skin cancer ?
The underneaths, my calves are dotted with pink blemishes, that once they’re out of the water, look like coral coloured barnacles living on the sides of my legs, quite content never to leave. Like small animals they huddle in colonies, slowly spreading over the rolling plains that are my white legs.
I always like my legs better while I’m in the bath though, the white crust of flakes disappears; there’s no cracking and bleeding, no snagging on table corners that make my skin rip like paper.
Its only my knees that really give me away, still looking permanently scuffed, looking like I have permanent scars from falling over during hopscotch, or I’ve been making extra money on my knees 🙂
So I draw my legs.
And I’ve drawn my legs before: art school, random self portraits. But I’ve never drawn my psoriasis, I just edited it out.
As if I could be stronger, beautifuler, nicer without the ugly red rashes that plague my arms, legs, head, feet, eyebrows and the one tiny on my cheek that looks like a spot.
As if I could will them away, by denying their existence.
As if I hadn’t answered thousands of questions about the contagiousness of psoriasis.
As if first words my mother always said when she hadn’t seen me for a months didn’t start with a fake but optimistic, ” your psoriasis is looking good…” for a period of twenty odd years, until I finally told her to stop.
As if I hadn’t defiantly refused to stop wearing shorts and mini-skirts when I my legs were blaring crimson, daring people to stare.
And as if I didn’t see those stares, but kept walking, laughing, living anyway.
So I draw with my black pen, a series of tufts and lumps and flakes, that to anybody seeing these inked legs for the first time, would make no sense whatsoever, but to me, well they’re mine.

I won’t bore you with my bad drawing… but when I’ve worked out how to paint, you’ll be the first to see.


About CT

Claire Townsend is a freelance costume designer/maker and theatre practitioner.
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