Friction

Chloe Ralle

Pressure, pressure. The constant friction was no issue with his mouth on mine. It wasn’t an issue with his hands running loosely and gingerly down my back and sides. The constant friction wasn’t a problem until it was no longer constant.

 

The skin had been rubbed away by the cheap fabric lining the door of the too-small car. The initial sting, then burn, then the ache and again to the sting. The idea of actual flesh being erased layer by layer fascinates me as I trace the roundish shape of the scab left where knee met cheap fabric and caused friction. It doesn’t sting until you apply pressure, pressure.

 

I think of writing this down on paper, with pencil so that I can mess up. I can mess up, erase, little pink shavings scatter across my paper, so I can swiftly brush them aside. The skin shavings, I brush these away too. 

 

I imagine in slow motion the grind of my knee against the coarse fabric, and I can see the layers peel back, one by one. Erased layer by layer.

 

The buckle hadn’t been as flexible as us, so my left knee was met with hard contact just like the too-cheap fabric connecting with my right. Two bodies, one too tall for his own good, were caught between the reclined seat and the steering wheel in his too-small car. This was okay.

 

It was okay. I was okay.

 

I didn’t realize that friction was only fiction until two forces met. My knees rubbed against the cheap fabric and hard plastic in that too-small car with a boy too tall. I didn’t feel the bruises forming and skin being peeled away. I didn’t feel as the friction built heat which stripped away at the pasty white skin on my knees.     

 

When one object is sliding on another it starts to slow down due to friction. This means it loses energy. However, the energy doesn’t disappear. It changes from kinetic energy to heat energy. This is why we rub our hands together when it’s cold. By rubbing them together, we generate friction and, therefore, heat. 

My knee slid against the hard plastic buckle and the coarse fabric but we didn’t slow down until it was late in the night, early day. It was still okay. We rolled the windows down and the February air swallowed us in that too-hot car. 

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It’s not an instant kind of hurt. It’s tucked away behind the shelves of sweet breath in a small car, the two bodies crammed in the hot space, the shaking pale hands and synchronous beating of teenage hearts right beneath the late night sky. I didn’t bother telling him because this was my personal token, what I had left from the too-small, too-hot car. 

 

A friction burn is a form of abrasion caused by the friction of skin rubbing against a surface. I felt the ridged surface of my swollen red scab. 

 

The shower water wasn’t warm but it stung. It sent a shock from my knee up my spine. I almost called out, almost. It was raw, torn skin, bright red, lined with rings of pink and purple. A distorted young girl’s birthday color scheme. There was nothing to do but extend my knee and let the water fall in bullets. I think about erasing this mess, brushing the pink skin shavings out of the way. But I couldn’t bring myself to properly clean what had been left over from that night. I couldn’t scrub away the too-tall boy and the too-cheap fabric in the too-hot car. 

 

It wasn’t a hurt you felt at first. It doesn’t hurt at first when he doesn’t call you back as you sit and stare at the phone, your hand tracing the tender bruises and hardened scabs. I don’t know if I winced more as I picked at the scab or when I didn’t hear him say my name again.  

 

No, it doesn’t hurt knowing it might have been wrong, what hurts is remembering how it felt right.

I don’t know what “it” is, or was, but nonetheless whatever “it” was left me glowing. The sun was rising as we departed and just like the light pink and gold, I was radiant. It was the hours we had spent talking and the hours we spent under the desert stars. It was the way his legs were too long and almost hit the dashboard with his seat all the way back. It was the way his hair fell in his face and my hair in mine. It was the way I made him laugh deeply, fully. It was the way my knee was rubbed raw and how that didn’t matter to me, how it was whatever. 

 

It doesn’t hurt at first when your bones are bruised and your legs are left purple and blue or when your knees shake because you’re sore. You’re still okay because the feeling of his hands and his mouth and his tall body haven’t left. It doesn’t hurt until you apply pressure and pick at the scab and bump your bruises on corners and chairs. It didn’t hurt at first realizing I missed his too-small car and his too-tall body and the too-hot air and the too-cheap fabric as it pulled away at the thin skin. It doesn’t hurt until you don’t feel the hurt anymore. 

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