I’m always amazed at how white they are. Even in the summer, as if parts of me cannot get anything from the light of the sun. Blue veins poke through the surface, revealing how thin skin really is. I’ve never touched the veins, though, well—I did once but I didn’t mean to—and that doesn’t count.
This is the only place I do not hide my arms. They are my own. My dialogue with myself, one I began three years ago with the end of a paperclip. Just to see. To see what it was like to feel.
“I—did something to my arm last night,” I said, testing him. Dr. Myers didn’t take my case seriously. He made me draw pretty pictures and feel guilty about my depression. “Maybe you should volunteer somewhere,” he’d said last week. “It might make you feel better.” Volunteer—where, exactly? I could barely get out of bed. Maybe the International Dust Mite Proliferation League?
I nervously pulled my sleeve down over my fingers.
“What did you do?” he arched his eyebrow in that damn stereotypical way. Do all psychologists have to be clichés?
Really, I’ve made too much of this. I simply traced a diamond over and over in my skin. Grazing, not cutting. Wimpy. I’m embarrassed.
After a lengthy pause he said, “Well, can I see it?”
I pulled the sleeve of my jacket back up. He asked me to come closer. “How’d you do it?”
“With the end of a paperclip.”
“What is it?”
“What does a diamond mean to you?”
Hell if I know.
That night Chase noticed my arm as I was making supper. “Babe, what’s that?” He caught my wrist and held my arm up to the light.
“It’s nothing,” I said.
“Wait—did you do this?” Silence. He looked closer. “Really nice piece.” Chase, eternally the artist. But he frowned.
I jerked my arm away. “Don’t worry, it won’t happen again.”
He stared at me. “Really?”
That night in bed I stared at Chase’s arms. They glowed bluish white in the moonlight streaming through the window. Ghostly. I connected the lines between his track marks in my mind, trying to make constellations or at least some type of pattern I could understand.
Chase didn’t believe in suicide. It was the easy way out. That’s why he did things like snowboard down the apartment stairs at his mother’s complex.
Next week Dr. Myers asked me if I’d had anymore paperclip adventures. I hadn’t. I pulled out the drawing he’d asked me to do, one of myself. One tree, divided in two. One side bent down, red and purple with puffs of smoke like a dragon. The other side bent as well, simultaneously crying and kissing the ground. Like a weeping willow.
“Maybe those two sides should have some dialogue with each other.”
For once I think he took me seriously. For once I took him seriously.
“What do dragons mean to you, Chase?” Chase had an enormous dragon tattoo covering both shoulder blades. It’d always fascinated me. But I’d never asked him what it meant.
“I like dragons because they have two sides. They’re creators and destroyers. Angels and demons. But, above all, they are powerful.”
“Powerful in what?”
“Whatever they want to be.”
I formed dragons in my mind with the track marks that night. I redrew them, naming and renaming different constellations in my own personal zodiac—one in which we shared the same stars.
The next night he didn’t come home. Nor the next. I got a page at midnight. “Babe. In trouble. Running. Don’t contact. Erased your # in case they find cellphone. Will get back to you. Love.”
Damn him for selling. I knew this day would come.
I slipped into the bathtub, crying. Had forgotten to run the water. Turned the faucet on and poured in the entire bottle of Mr. Bubble. Effervescent lightness. The perfect ambience, the perfect backdrop.
My first thought: Razors draw sharp, clear lines. Less aesthetically messy than the ends of paper clips. The command of line is important. I drew a dragon, lightly, with just the razor’s edge. I had trouble with the curves. I felt nothing, or, I felt everything but it was far away. I had to go deeper.
I redrew. Deeper, deeper, deeper. Now with feeling. Harder. Steam fogged up the mirror. Messier, messier. No control now. I felt—me! Spray, red rain. Flood. Me—it felt so good to be free…
They questioned me when I woke up. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was simply trying to draw dragons. They wouldn’t listen. Chase got me out of the hospital a week later.
Evidently he’d been able to come up with the money and was back home.
I moved out two weeks later. I now have a beautiful sun porch where I sit everyday. My arms are safe here. I meditate and trace old patterns. Their background: so, so white. My favorite pattern is the diamond I can now barely see. I keep it safe from the blade and only every so often perform red dragons. I command their line lightly. Like I’ve come to feel.
- Current Location:Atlanta, GA
- Current Mood: excited
- Current Music:Vetiver/The Clientele