Desquamation by Megan Jauregui Eccles
The lizard suns herself. She looks happier than I ever have.
She blinks one eye, then the other. She doesn’t look at me.
Does she know that, like me, she once belonged to you?
The days wind like hours on a clock. I try spending more time outside. Lying flat on the ground and soaking up the rays of the sun like I’m a plant or a very small lizard.
My skin reddens and blisters. I go inside and nurse my wounds with aloe and Tylenol.
Later, I see the lizard bite off a piece of her own shedding skin and swallow. My sunburn begins to slough off. I let it dissolve on my tongue like a communion wafer. But my skin is just skin. I’m not any closer to God or to the lizard or to you.
I try to bake bread with the flour I bought last year when I made cookies for you. You wanted to eat the dough and I wouldn’t let you because of the raw eggs. And then we had that last fight. You told me I was paranoid, no sense of adventure. I held up a spoonful of the raw dough to show you that I could do it.
Too late, you said.
And walked out.
The cookies burned to black discs. I let them sit in the oven for days, in case you came back.
There are little worms in the flour. I pick them out and feed them to the lizard. She snaps them up, quick and unafraid.
I drop one in my mouth. It tastes like nothing.
I still find things you left behind. The book you read until the pages were cotton soft and the spine cracked and peeled. The ticket stub from the movie we escaped into during a storm. A sock folded KonMari, to keep it happy, to make it whole.
Later I find the lizard face down in her water bowl.
She’s finally done it, I think, envious of her resolve. Suicide seems an act of bravery.
Then I see the flick of her tongue and realize she’s just drinking. Cooling her sun-warmed body with the cold, clear water, like a balm for a broken heart.
I wonder if you think about her and how you left her behind. If you wake in the night and reach for her and find only cold, empty space. If you miss the scrape of her claws against your skin and the infinity of her eyes or the way it feels to love something that needs you. Maybe this one will be better than the last.
I place the lizard out in the lawn.
Be free, I say.
She doesn’t go. I wait until the scorching sun dips behind the hills. I pick her up and take her back inside where things are safe. She shuffles beneath the mossy log, comfortable and familiar. I delete your number from my phone. I make cookie dough without eggs and enjoy every bite.
Megan Jauregui Eccles lives in the foothills of San Diego with her husband, sons, dogs, and various farm animals. She is editorial assistant and social media manager for Hill Nadell Literary Agency and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California Riverside—Palm Desert. When she’s not writing or rehoming rattlesnakes, she pairs lipstick to her favorite books on Instagram and plays Dungeons & Dragons. She’s represented by Lauren Galit of LKG Literary.