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It was that summer, too, that I began the cutting, and was almost as devoted to it as my newfound loveliness. I adored tending to myself, wiping a shallow red pool of my blood away with a damp washcloth to magically reveal, just above my naval: queasy. Applying alcohol with dabs of a cottonball, wispy shreds sticking to the bloody lines of: perky. I had a dirty streak my senior year, which I later rectified.
Alone, she took hot baths and sat exhausted in the steaming water, wondering at her perpetual exhaustion. All that winter she noticed the limp, languid weight of her arms, her veins bulging slightly with the pressure of her extreme weariness … one day in January she drew a razor blade lightly across the inside of her arm, near the elbow, to see what would happen.
There were also the razor marks on her wrists and forearms, half a dozen per arm, not very deep, not very convincing really, just a lame, hapless attempt at hurting herself. There hadn’t even been that much blood and nobody at the hospital had been at all surprised. These scars, for some reason, he didn’t mind. Maybe they even appealed to him. They showed that she was weak and in need of him.
That was when I cut my arms with a razor blade as a means of creative expression. I only did it lightly, just grazing the skin, to see the way the blood would bleed out, to make myself look tougher. Not like some of those kids who keep going deeper and deeper, wondering what they look like down to the bone, because it’s a world that’s so close and yet so far and so dangerous and so much their own. The only world that is their own.
For those who need a name, there’s a gift basket of medical terms. All I know is cutting made me feel safe. It was proof. Thoughts and words, captured where I could see them and track them. The truth, stinging, on my skin, in a freakish shorthand. Tell me you’re going to the doctor, and I’ll want to cut worrisome on my arm. Say you’ve fallen in love and I buzz the outlines of tragic over my breast. I hadn’t necessarily wanted to be cured.
I am a cutter, you see. Also a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber. I am a very special case. I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams. It’s covered with words – cook, cupcake, kitty, curls – as if a knife-wielding first-grader learned to write on my flesh. I sometimes, but only sometimes, laugh. Getting out of the bath and seeing, out of the corner of my eye, down the side of a leg: baby-doll. Pulling on a sweater, and in a flash of my wrist: harmful. Why these words?
When you’re starving or wrapped up in a cycle of binge-ing-and-purging, or sexually obsessed with (someone), it is very hard to think about anything else, very hard to see the larger picture of options that is your life, very hard to consider what else you might need or want or fear were you not so intently focused on one crushing passion. I sat in my room every night, with rare exceptions, for three and a half years.