Strength Through Wounding
I sit, crushing my thighs to my boobs, watching the red numbers on my clock digitally slide toward midnight. Mom should be asleep by then, but in the meantime, I need to physically hold myself together. My bedspread feels scratchy and hot on my bare feet like the floor of a bouncy castle that’s been in the sun a couple of hours. My jeans form creases that bite into my skin, but it’s not enough, not for me. Tremors run down my limbs as if something is crawling just beneath the surface, testing my epidermis for weak spots, trying to burst out and shatter me into nothingness. I am not even sure if that’s a bad thing.
Why does no one want to save me, not even me?
The question slips into my mind despite my efforts. I know the answer of course: because I’m not worth saving. If I were, then things would stop happening. Things like my dad buying an ‘80s era R.V. and going on the road with señorita Rosa-Maria from Macho Taco and leaving me behind. Or my mom getting a chic new bob and doubling her caseload so she could always have an excuse to duck out on me. Or me making-out with Pothead Dave last Wednesday because I had nothing better to do. He tasted like he needed a shower. But things happen because I let them. Like pebbles being endlessly slapped against a beach by the force of the waves, I don’t have enough weight to stop myself or anything else, and each wave weathers me down a little more.
When the time comes, I sneak out of the house. Actually, there is hardly any sneaking necessary. My mom is a big fan of sleeping pills. I just walk out the front door.
The night is not exactly peaceful with the sound of cars on the busy street nearby and someone’s car alarm going off. But I know a place where I can be alone with my demons. When I get to the sidewalk, I start running; I can hardly wait another second for release. My ragged Converse pound a jaw-jarring rhythm as I race to the park. It is less than a mile, but by the time I reach the park bathrooms, I’m gulping air like I have nearly drowned. The bathrooms are nestled into a pine-filled corner of the park. All I hear now is the wind coming through the trees.
The building is basic, just grey cinder block on a grey cement slab. I find it comforting; probably the same way nuns find their cells in a convent comforting. The door is dinged and scratched and it shrieks when I open it, but inside there is only the quiet hum from the moth-filled lights. I’ve been here before and each time I promise it will be the last. It feels like a lie even as I think it. My life seems like one endless night because sometimes the only moments that seem real are the moments I spend here. I do not even know what I am hoping for anymore: a knight in shining armor to whisk me away to a world of light and hope? That dream fled long ago. No one wants damaged goods.
I know it could be worse. I mean, I am not starving or homeless or whatever. And I’m sure other people have felt this way too. But it doesn’t help. If I don’t feel pain soon, I’ll scream. I nearly rip off my faded green tee and toss it carelessly on the ground. The lights flicker overhead as I turn to face the wall of chipped sinks and spotted mirrors. It’s cold and my bare skin sprouts goose bumps.
I’m finally alone. Well, alone except for my reflection, and the dead moths. My eyes dig into my reflection, assessing every curve and plane, distorted by the grime of the cheap mirror; I appear almost perfect this way. As I run my fingers over my stomach and around my white bra, I can feel my scars, but in the mirror they do not exist. I have an overwhelming urge to change that. I’m not perfect and it seems as though my reflection is a mockery of what I should be. But I’m definitely not that girl in the mirror. I don’t even know who she is. I fish the razor blade out of my back pocket. It feels icy and strong against my fingers, like breath-stealing happiness.
I start with my right arm. The moment the razor pierces my skin, a sense of peace fills me. I know what I need to do right now, right here. Carefully, I carve words like loneliness and fear and despair into my pale flesh. I don’t cut deep, just enough to bleed a little. Word by word, I write my life in my flesh. Lies. Abandoned. Inadequate. Lost. Forgotten. Selfish. I refuse to edit myself as I move to my left arm. Diva. Arrogance. Egoist. I bleed out the truth of my life until there is nothing left but me. And my reflection. And the dead moths.
What’s the point of this? I see the answer glaring at me in bloodied welts from my elbow to my wrist. I don’t want to live. I didn’t even realize that was true until I read it in my skin. But I’m right. This is no way to live, suffocating all day to escape into the sweet oblivion of pain in the night. My reflection catches my eye. The bitch still looks perfect. Stupid, dirty mirrors hiding all of her flaws. Wasn’t that me once? Flawless. Blameless. Hopeful. Those are the words I want. I’m done living my life through my self-mutilating secrets.
I scream at my reflection. She copies me in silence and I know I can win. I clench my fists until the skin across my knuckles goes white and then I slam them into the mirrors over and over and over again. I don’t even stop as the glass begins to crunch and crumble, breaking my flesh at the same time. The symphony of it all fills the echoing room. My arms are already on fire. But somehow I just know that if I shatter her, something will happen. This is how I end the battle. This is how I end the night.
The bathroom door slams open with a banshee-like screech as the last of the mirrors fall like hail to the cement floor. The police officer and I having matching deer-in-headlights looks. We do not know if we should run or stay. It’s hard to say what color his hair is with the red and blue lights pulsing behind him, but it’s definitely dark. His uniform is crisp and neat; his shift has just started or it’s been a slow night. I have that feeling like I’m about to have a bloody nose except it’s all down my arms instead. The officer’s gaze widens as he takes me in and he starts forward as my knees buckle. He catches me before I fall. I am getting red all over his white shirt.
“What happened?” his voice soothes after shouting something gravelly into his radio. He smells like leather and grass. There are crinkled worried lines around his eyes and his lips are pressed tight together. He holds me tight as he lowers me to the cold cement.
“Would you love me?” I whisper against the convulsions gripping my body.
I can hear sirens as my eyes close.
Check out Julie’s answer to our prompt on Monday.