Essay from Susan Hodara


There are harmless ones, tingles that dislodge your hand so you can run your nails into your hair and along your scalp, up and down, once, twice, and that’s all it takes.

There are elusive ones, beckoning from somewhere on your back that you can’t reach and you can’t find, so you contort your elbow and slide your thumbnail across the vicinity, over and over, leaving angry red lines that you won’t notice until later, when a hot shower ignites them and you crane your neck to see what you’ve done.

There are flirtatious ones, a tickle here and then there, along your ribcage, on the side of your knee, behind your ear. Fickle ones that vanish moments after they emerged, not committed enough to stay.

There are latent ones, absent until you caress the area, tease out the ghost. Then you can scratch or press or rub, as you would with any other itch, all the while knowing that the need wasn’t truly there.

There are urgent ones. Sirens that lure your fingertips, masochists that want the pain your nails offer. You slip them over the bumpy surface. You dig their edges into the core of the call, and you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t stop, and you lose yourself in the scraping, the grating, the ecstasy of what feels like relief but is really the plea for more.

Susan Hodara is a journalist, memoirist and educator. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Communication Arts, and more. Her short memoirs are published in assorted anthologies and literary journals, including River Teeth, Feed and Airplane Reading. She is one of four co-authors of the collaborative memoir “Still Here Thinking of You: A Second Chance With Our Mothers” (Big Table Publishing, 2013). She has taught memoir writing at the Hudson Valley Writers Center for many years. More at

5 thoughts on “Essay from Susan Hodara

  1. This is amazing work! Every word was precise and necessary. Congratulations!

    Leslie Lisbona

  2. I love this piece. Though it is making me have to scratch! Beautifully written!

  3. Really original piece! Love the rhythm of the prose, Susan!

  4. A beautiful description of what we go through every day as human beings. Something we don’t see often written about. The flirtatious ones are my favorites.
    Thank you.

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