It’s been three weeks since you carved the word “fragile” into your arm. The letters didn’t leave the rough, deep-set scars you’d hoped for. At the same time you’re relieved that your co-workers don’t look close enough to see the pink raised lines that still whisper the bitter word.
You forgot how warm it was getting. And how intuitive some of them are. That they might notice how you hold the hem of your sleeves in your palm or that you’re wearing sleeves at all.
But no one really notices the way you clutch your arms around your ribs. When the scars start to heal no one pays attention to your itching. Even the people who know. It’s better that way. It’s not like in the movies where one person sees it, touches them gently, and fixes everything.
The last time you gave in like that, there was a backwards spiral. Those aren’t fun. It’s not worth it.
Even if you think the reaction would be better this time—better to just leave them hidden there and hope.
Hope they don’t stretch back open when you couch dance to The Lion King on Friday.
Hope the bleach water and goggles are enough to hide the red lines on Saturday.
Hope your roommates are too tired to look at you twice when they first get back so you have time to throw a blanket over the evidence on Sunday.
Hope that by Monday they’re set in enough that you forget about them and can focus on school and work and chores.
Take one breath every day and hold it till the lights turn out because that’s the only way you can make for even a tiny bit sure that nothing else is going to happen.
Remember the last time something else happened?
That’s where the word came from in the first place, when the best people averted their eyes when you stepped out of the police car clutching your overnight kit and smelling like deodorant from the treatment center.
The only way to prove them right is to take the word and make it real. You can’t think of a better way than with the help of your silver friend.
Remember the time you sliced off the top of your thumb prying it out of the pink plastic shaver? You don’t remember the pain. Only the blood that didn’t stop coming. Sometimes that’s the best part.
There’s that one time you did it in the shower because you thought you’d never come out. Even though you knew the voices in the rooms across the hall. They’d just showered and no one would be looking in for a long time.
There’s not enough gauze in the bathroom this time so you have to deal with it. It hasn’t been this bad in a while. Each step and turn stretches the split skin and there’s this metallic ache in your muscles. You’re not good at sterilizing. Maybe one day you’ll get tetanus. You wonder if it’s as debilitating as people say.
Three weeks later lying on the bed and twisting your arm in the crooked light of your desktop lamp. How did you get the letters in that spot anyway? Three weeks is kind of a long time. A lot happened, anyway. But you’ve managed to hold your breath all twenty-one days.
The ones on your leg stayed better. You wonder if anyone sees them when you’re in the water. They probably notice the hair first. You never shave.
I think you’re wondering if I noticed. If your tiny winces masked by an extra-loud giggle and your hitched breath lead me to some conclusion. If I noticed the way you held yourself. I’m not sure if I did. I wonder what I would have said if I had.
I think part of you wants me to be the one to fix this. Is that what I want? I want you to be fixed. I feel like I’m the last person you should count on to do that.
I think the funny thing is not even knowing how much she hurt you and still comparing myself and asking if I’m hurting you worse.
Then I look at your fake smile and wonder if anyone will ever hurt you worse than you hurt yourself. I think the reason you want the scars to last is because you want them to hurt worse than the pain.