by Jason Jackson

My eleven year-old boy’s body is mapped all over with blue veins. They show almost neon, these twisting lines that carry his life.

They shout, hey, look, vulnerability!

Or sometimes, think what would happen if someone took a knife…

I don’t know how it’s possible for skin to be so translucent, so obviously insufficient.

I don’t understand anything anymore.

When he came out, he was covered in iiicckk. I don’t know the medical term. But they wiped him, and they gave him to his mum, and she said the stereotype-stuff, and so did I, and inside I was thinking, Veins, man! Kid’s full of ‘em!

As well as the ones all over his body, there was one right at the bridge of his nose. I could see it pulsing. I thought, he’s going to die, if not now, then definitely when he’s seven, because someone’s going to hit him, some fat bully with fists like ham shanks, some kid whose parents still smoke in the house and have a fifty-inch television hanging on their living-room wall, this bully-boy is going to hit him right in the bridge of his nose and his skin will split and his vein will pop and he’ll bleed out in a fountain of redness before he ever gets to experience anything really cool in the world, like when a stranger kisses you when you’re least expecting it, or when you swim almost—but not quite—too far out at sea and there’s a moment when you look at the shore and it seems just that tiny little bit too far away, and that tiny-little-bit might as well be a thousand miles, and you panic, and you turn, and swim twenty strokes quickly, and you lift your head up from the suddenly-freezing, suddenly-pulling blue, and you see that you’re going to make it back after all…

The thing that brought me back from this was, blue?

Why are veins blue?

It turns out that it’s to do with light, and skin, and our eyes, and more really complicated stuff, and I didn’t find any of this out until later, but just thinking about why the hellallowed me to stop going crazy and appreciate the fact that suddenly, finally, now, I had a son.

And here he is. Eleven years old and looking for his pyjama top. He’s walking around in the flat going, Dad…and I can see the map of him, the blue-under-the-white, and I know all about how the blue veins are deeper, not close to the surface at all, in fact at least nought-point-five millimetres deep, which in skin-terms might as well be buried, man! and that they only look blue because of relativity.

Yes.

Relativity.

(I really don’t understand anything anymore.)

And now, look, he’s found his pyjama top, and he’s so tired, Dad and you know what, kid? So am I.

And I kiss him, right on the bridge of his nose.

Jason Jackson writes short fiction and, occasionally, poetry. He also takes photographs. In a busy life he hopes to get better at all three. Jason tweets @jj_fiction.