Here is a powerful, hard-hitting piece of short fiction by one of our members. It has been accepted for publication in The Laconic, the literary journal of Northampton Community College and is scheduled to appear this coming Tuesday. Congratulations, Marian!
I write on my arm a lot–lyrics, verses, quotes. I’ll use pen–red ink, purple ink, blue ink, black. People often ask me why I make a canvas of my skin. I tell them I do it because words are important to me. After all, that’s true. Words are symbols for anything worth having. But, no, that’s not the real reason. If I told the real reason, I’m sure the person would wish they’d never asked.
Have you ever wanted to die? I have. But, honestly, I’m too much of a coward to take my life, even though I’ve thought it out. To try to cope with the hollow pain, instead, I turn my skin to canvas. To punish myself, I slice it.
You see, there are worse things you can do to your skin than cover it in ink. What is the worst that can happen to an unblemished canvas? A blemish. Destruction. Cuts. I’m wary of labeling myself as a cutter. It’s not like I do it all the time. It just happens on a bad day. I remember the very first time I drew a knife over my wrist. As I stared at the blood on my arm, I asked myself, “How did I become like this?” I don’t know. My second question, “Why do I want to die?” Again, no answer.
The thing about depression and cutting is you know you really don’t want either of them in your life. It’s not earth-shattering to recognize these things destroy you. After I had accumulated a pattern on my arm, a web of scars and scabs, I knew I needed to stop. I didn’t want to be a cutter. I told myself I wasn’t, but my skin gave me away.
My skin gave me away and yet no one seemed to care. My pain was etched into my body and everyone walked past me, turning a blind eye. Why? Is it too awkward for you? To ask me if everything’s okay? To offer help? To just sit down and listen? I know I’m not alone. Roll up the sleeves of the average teen and see what you find. It’s not pretty, but it’s there. And everyone’s silent.
But the words on my arm–those grab your attention. Five people in a day can ask me what they say, why I do it, what it means. You see, if you’ve a bad habit or an addiction, you can’t just give it up. You’ve got to replace it with something. So, I write. I write, and every time I feel the need to cut, I read the words-my symbols that remind me to hang in there. Life, somehow, is worth living. They don’t always stop me, but sometimes they turn the knife away.
If you ask me about the words on my arm, I won’t tell you the truth. If you find the courage to ask about the scars, I will.