The Itch by Amy Neufeld
I am the itch you cannot reach. That’s me, right between your shoulder blades, slightly to the left. If only your arms were a bit longer, or you’d actually committed to that yoga routine. You might have the flexibility you need.
I’m not going anywhere, and I won’t be ignored.
If you don’t deal with me, I’m coming for your brain. Like a high-pitched whistle that overrides your thoughts and makes it impossible to focus on anything else but me, the itch you can’t reach.
Arch and lean back. Push your arm that quarter inch further. Ignore the pain in your joints. That’s it, you’ve reached me.
Guess what, I’m not a surface level itch.
Go deeper. Push your nail in and start to dig. Force through the first layer of skin, then the second. Don’t let up, you’re getting closer. Feel the soft tissues give way, spread apart, yield to you. Blood starts to pool around your finger tip; ignore it. Keep coming for me. I’m deeper still.
Past the fatty tissue, dig into the muscle. Push the sinews and tendons out of the way. I’m still in here.
Scratch at the piano lessons you stopped taking, the promising musical career squandered.
Prod into all the countries you haven’t travelled to, you won’t travel to.
Just below the next layer is that story you’ve always thought would make a great novel, but you never sit down to write it.
Keep going, keep scratching.
What’s that by your spine? Is that me? Or is it the boy in high school who made you laugh, then disappeared after graduation? Or the woman on the train who looks at you and smiles, but who you never talk to?
Guess what, I’m still buried in here. You haven’t reached me yet.
Your whole hand is engulfed now. Don’t pay attention to your shoulder dislocating as you excavate deeper. Inhale sharply as you push against your lung. Claw towards the bright heat that radiates from your core.
Past the contemplative foreign films pushed to the bottom of your Netflix cue that you’re never in the mood to watch.
Past the second glass of wine your mother pours when your aunt asks what you’re up to these days at holiday dinners.
Past your rejected dog adoption application.
I’m further yet, just out of reach.
Come find me.
Amy (she/her) is a contributor to Shameless Magazine and CBC Radio’s The Irrelevant Show, and has been published in Daily Drunk Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Frazzled, and Little Old Lady Comedy. Find her @AmyRNeufeld (Twitter).