The Skeleton - Akhil Mulgaonker
Imagining something else, I lock eyes with the skeleton imperceptibly twirling in the classroom's corner. Dave, grinning at me with a lopsided jaw, slumps, gravity dragging his barely reconstituted form to a deader conclusion, threatening him with a demolition, smashing if the single loose screw in the ceiling gives way.
Dave's pearly white exterior, cleaned of the quivering pinkness which made him a dreamer, glares dully under flickering fluorescent squares. He once strived with blood suffusing, muscles flexing, brains purposing. Now, he is diminished to a flat curiosity, a perfunctory teaching aid, a 3D version of the anonymous, illustrated bodies plastered on the walls – created by and existing for those still with a pinkness gleaming through their skin.
For my peers, the pink gush pounds heavily behind their eyes, bulging, pressing, narrowing their visual field until life, squarely center, glowing so intensely, eclipses the skeleton. Receding in the background, Dave is obscured as an unrecognizable silhouette. He is a personified object, something viewed, not someone who lived.
The humans passing through each class period, whose anatomy he supposedly represents, chalk him up as an idiosyncrasy in a cluttered classroom, more like the lizard basking under the heat lamp or the antique lab equipment than themselves.
They come and go with muscles and ligaments that long melted from Dave's form, laughing, maybe even learning under his gaze, yet retaining an arrogance peculiar to the pinked, not once contemplating or considering Dave's humanity. Like youthful toddlers, my classmates acknowledge him only as an amusing, spinning mobile, seeing him with newfound object permanence and not the reality – that he is inseparable from them.
They touch him without contact, without a keener awareness of who they are, who Dave is, and the momentary link, soon to evaporate, touching them both. Playfully jerking at his femur, a boy's casual pull belies a more profound, grim push that inters the twisting skeleton and coasting kid together.
The skeleton exists plainly with his gray fate while the other hides from his own, draping himself in a ruddy velvet coat. The boy conceals himself with the opulence of life, protected against the noxious eruptions of molten rivers coursing his body and dusting the swaying naked man beside him. He forgets that the naked man is really him once time shears him, as he grays, exposing him, too, to the ashen rain of those who still simmer.
Right now, he is too busy throbbing with a pinkness beating to the next moment, again and again circulating with gossip, jokes, worries, and dreams exuding from life, believing with an impatience and impertinence that he can leave the classroom and the skeleton behind.
Akhil Mulgaonker is a history and anthropology undergraduate student at the University of Houston. He currently is an unpublished, student writer. He wishes to become a historian/scholar of disability and mental illness in colonial and postcolonial India. Akhil is autistic, gay, and a person of color and draws on insights at that unique crossroads in his work. He is a currently an unpublished emerging writer.