Connor got up. He rolled off of the bed and walked to the bathroom, passing a hand over his chest. It felt rough and smooth all at once under his palm, but that was just a remnant of his dream. He had been made of bones and… that was all he could remember. He didn't try to dredge up any more; something itched.
Still, as he unzipped his pants and watched the urine stream into the bowl, he couldn't seem to remember that static-y space between the unconscious and the conscious, that haze where everything seemed to be made of solid smoke. That was important. It was always there, wasn't it? A thin membrane separating what was real and what wasn't, blurring a bit at the edges so that there was always this space, this time where you were confused, where you weren't sure if the fire was blazing or dying and you could believe whatever you wanted to and tell yourself that it would be okay anyway.
There hadn't been one, this morning. Connor shook, tucked himself away, and flushed. He looked into the bowl. The water could be whiter, so he flushed again until it was.
He stepped up to the sink, and didn't look at the pipes as he reached out, just let his hand fall onto the first one that it would, and turned it on full blast. He knew that it would be cold before he thrust his hand under. No steam. He washed his hands and face.
Connor contemplated the space, and the lack of it. In one moment he had been dreaming of a simpler him, all bones, all outside, bleach-white and marrow-less. In the next moment, he had been rolling off the bed. Maybe it wasn't that the space hadn't occurred. Maybe it had happened right next to him. Maybe he couldn't remember.
Now, he was flesh and blood again. He passed a hand over his chest. There were thin long lines raked all over it, moving in swoops and curves. The deepest of them went right over his left nipple, angry red striking through dusky pink. It hurt when he touched it. His fingers danced near and close.
He realised that he was looking down at his chest when he could just as easily look into the mirror. The sight of his face with the jagged line down his temple and the pocked little scars around his eye was still a pleasant little surprise to him. Recognising himself in the face in the mirror took a little longer now, a little more concentration. Connor raised his hands to his face, inspected them. His fingernails, as he knew, were cut down almost to the quick, but he supposed he could have still scratched himself if he'd put enough effort into it.
A tingle shifted into life on his temple, bubbling just beneath the skin. He knew that he shouldn't (his stitches, and all that) but he scraped his fingers across the scar tissue there anyway, trying to relieve the itch. It felt good, but vaguely uncomfortable, like fingers creeping beneath his armpits would make him smile and grimace at the same time. He scratched at the tissue again.
Make-up was going to yell at him; there were more circles beneath his eyes than ever before. Connor pulled at his cheeks a little before he laughed, realising how ridiculous that was. They already had their work cut out for them with the scar; dark circles weren't going to be the end of the world.
What would it be like, though, to be without skin and flesh and liquid pain? Connor thought about it as he checked his smile in the mirror, grimacing and showing his teeth. All of the extra layers somehow felt unnecessary. Granted, without them, he probably wouldn't be able to feel things, like the sweat that gathered at the small of Raquel's back when she was excited, or a salty breeze coming in with the tide, ghosting across his face, or the tiger bite of water clawing in and around his pores. Of course, without them, he also probably would not be able to isolate and identify this itch. He rubbed at his temple.
Still stretching and moving his lips, he inspected his fingers anew. No... he couldn't have scratched himself. The scrapes on his chest were as red as a bad moon, but there was no blood anywhere near his meagre fingernails. There would be blood, wouldn't there? He was pretty sure.
He looked up just in time to see himself smile a smile that he really liked. He tried it again. Yes... it was a good one. Connor beamed at himself.
After a few seconds more of appreciative study, he stuck his head out of the bathroom door, just to check the time. The clock told him that it was just after six-thirty. Since he had already walked to the door, he told himself that he might as well check his phone for the time; it was right there on the dresser. And besides, sometimes, he found that the clock on the wall of his bedroom moved just a little bit faster than every other timepiece in the house. Perhaps he should get that looked at.
The phone felt heavier and colder in his hand than it normally did. Connor tapped on the screen. No messages. Plastic met wood and made a little clunk as he dropped the phone back on the dresser.
On the short trek back to the bathroom, he scratched the wound and contemplated what he could remember about his dream. A self made entirely and only of bones. Was that what he wanted, then? But what you dreamt about always had some obscure other meaning, didn’t it? Like marriage, meaning death. What would, then, be the (almost, but not quite) direct opposite of being made of bones? He couldn’t think of anything besides the obvious: a person, whole and good.
His chin felt prickly and raw; he rubbed against it with his knuckles, but reached back up to his temple soon again. The itch was constant and deep. He rubbed at the spot with the pads of his fingertips, trying to avoid the stitches. Seconds later, he was scratching at it with his short fingernails anyway. Perhaps he could have given himself those scrapes on his chest after all.
Back in front of the mirror again, Connor pulled at his cheeks. He had to be on set at ten; that gave him a few hours. For what, he didn’t know. He could eat, he supposed. He could have some tea. He could put on the kettle.
Would someone only made out of bones even need to eat? Food was sustenance, yes, but that was for organs and muscles and brains and all the funny little bits inside you that kept you going, kept you working, even when you didn’t want to go on. And a person made out of bones was essentially… well, a skeleton. Dead. Gone. Nothing to sustain.
Connor scratched at his temple again as he contemplated what he would do with his morning. He glanced out the bathroom door, towards his phone, mentally drawing up a list of people whom he could call. He then drew up a list of people who would actually, really want to hear from him.
His hands curled around the white rim of the face basin.
After a second, he reached out to turn on the pipes, again not looking to see whether his hand would land on hot or cold. The water gushed out clear and with a crystal ice bite; he closed the tap immediately, and then looked down. The hot water faucet was on the right. Connor turned it on, waited a few seconds while he chewed on his lip and worried at the wound on his temple. Then he plunged his hands under, wincing and wondering what it said about him that there were no identical names on either list.
Steam rushed up, bathing his face. The water didn’t get hot enough, of course. Connor washed his face, as he couldn’t remember whether or not he’d done so already. When water splashed over the sensitive area on the left side of his face, it burned. The itch was blossoming into a sort of tickle, the annoying kind, like he knew something was there, just there, beneath the surface. He’d once had a small part in a crime procedural, playing an amputee experiencing phantom aches. He wondered if this was anything like that.
Last night’s dream came back to him again as he wiped his hands – a dull angry red, all the blood beaten to the surface and the skin tingling – on a towel. He had been made of bones, clean, uncomplicated, raw… but nothing was ever that simple, was it? Not acting, not dating, not dreaming, not surviving.
The itch stabbed at his temple, a constant niggle that almost made him want to cry. Connor stared at himself in the mirror and scratched at it, deep and long and hard, first with one hand, then with two, eyes narrowed in concentration as he scraped along his skin.
His fingers came away bloody – ah, there it was – but the itch was still there.