The Girl with the Perfectly Smooth Body

Julian Castronovo

There was a girl with a body that was perfectly smooth. She had holes for her mouth and nose and ears but she was otherwise completely seamless like a plastic doll. In those days people knew better than to interfere with things they didn’t understand and so the girl was for the most part left alone. She lived in a mountain village in China where many of the structures had been built in the style of Louis XIV. Here she remained a secret to the world. She had a happy childhood and a loving family. As she grew older, however, she became very beautiful. She had long black hair and skin the color of raw milk and glassy little eyes that would dart about like minnows.

Word of the girl’s beauty quickly spread and men came from all over in search of her. They had, of course, heard rumors that the girl was without blemish, navel, genitals; that in place of any orifice she had only perfect unbroken skin. Though her seamlessness presented an impossibility, as it were, of fornication, it nonetheless cannot be ignored that it was primarily this very quality which so compelled the prurient desires of men. These dissipated suitors arrived in the little village like flies to rotting fruit. Each approached the girl and enumerated his financial and emotional resources in hopes of being chosen. In her diary the girl took detailed notes of these encounters; it is indeed from this small worn document, long sealed by a heart-shaped lock, that much of our still-incomplete knowledge of the girl has been derived.

And though the gaps in the narrative remain numerous, still we can say with relative certainty: In her lifetime the smooth girl had three lovers. The first— indeed the richest of all her initial suitors— was an industrialist. He owned a pit mine in Tibet and gave the girl lots of gifts and precious stones. He was building too a vast, beautiful highway across the forsaken region; one day he brought the girl deep into the cold desert to see the point at which his unfinished band of asphalt abruptly ended. There at what seemed the exact middle of the world the girl with the perfectly smooth body sipped on her bubble tea and listened to the howling of wind. Behind her the industrialist compulsively muttered to himself and thumbed his ivory penknife. The girl knew she could not spend her life with a man so ugly and so earnestly dedicated to principles of extraction and speculation. She was seventeen and already quite famous; she felt full of possibility and knew that she could do and get whatever she wanted. So the next day she awoke at dawn and dressed quietly in the dark and went to the airport and left. The plane rose and turned. A gentle, pleasant force pushed the girl’s head backwards into her seat.

Her second lover was an artist. He was not a great artist or, indeed, a very good artist, but his parents were very rich and so it was natural that he’d become one nonetheless. The smooth girl met him one night at a gallery opening or something and was drawn to his torn up clothes and the solemn way he acquired her WhatsApp information. They began dating and the girl felt excited and special. After a while the artist thought to himself that if he made a collection of paintings of the smooth girl people were likely to find them very unique and compelling. Yes, he surmised, the critics would surely admire his compositions; perhaps they would even go so far to write about how his work spoke to a certain subconscious tendency toward enclosure, how it articulated, say, a hermeneutics of the hermetic. So the next morning he set up his canvases and posed the girl in his studio and began to paint. He painted for eight days straight, all in vain. On the ninth day he looked about the room and saw his canvases were covered only in strange ovular forms and words such as “rub” and “saline.” Upon witnessing this nonsense that was his work, the artist flew into a fit of madness. He went home to his beautiful apartment and jumped through a window and by the time the hit the ground the girl had already grieved and moved on.

The girl's last lover was a schoolteacher. As a young man he had dedicated all his nights to the study of poetry; by day he labored in a factory making artificial pearls. After years of this he returned, vision near- ruined from reading so much in the dark, to his village to take up teaching. He taught all the children about arithmetic and Flaubert and everyone admired him for his patience, wit, and endearing near- sightedness. One day the girl with the perfectly smooth body visited this village—for this was the same one in which she had lived as a child— in order to film scenes for her web series. She was leading around a camera crew and narrating sites of personal significance when she heard, as if in a dream, a man’s voice floating softly above the clamor: “Surely by the tiny light of the fingernail moon...” She looked over and identified the source of the sound and deep within her something timid did quiver and unfold like a butterfly sunning itself after having been beaten by rain.

Soon thereafter the smooth girl and this man, the schoolteacher, took up residence in an abandoned chateau. She replanted and saw to the greenhouse, he mended the mouse-eaten floors, the leaking lead roof. Before them days stretched out winsome and armlike and innumerable. Of the girl in body and mind the schoolteacher demanded nothing. He simply seemed, in a hitherto unknown way, to enjoy her company. Perhaps this was because he suspected the girl’s smoothness, her perfect unbroken skin, was not meant to be taken so literally. He reasoned, rather, that her lack of orifices was indicative of some cultural logic or broader imperative, that it was an elusive metaphor having to do with long-forgotten tautologies such as the name of God or the sense that everything and all the loneliness in the world was redundant and self-affirming, desperately becoming only because it had in fact already become. It is, of course, impossible to know now if the man was correct in his suspicions. But we do know that he was gentle and kind, that each morning he would set out dishes of minced albacore for the stray cats, that he made the girl feel wanted and calm. Together they were a pair; very seldom or perhaps not at all did they at one another scream, they were in love and felt that way for a long time.

Julian Castronovo is a writer whose website is