CW: Blood, Self-harm
Inches | Non-Fiction |
The first time I cut myself was in the bathroom of an elementary school. I was assigned community service every Friday as part of my high school curriculum and my task was to assist a class of kindergarteners who spoke in pink rhymes and couldn’t spell. I was fourteen and wore my hair without brushing it, my pants too tight. My class was at lunch, splitting sandwiches into lacy halves in exchange for a fistful of loose cereal.
A few minutes beforehand I told the teacher I was partnered with, a dumpling woman with roses pinned on her cheeks, I was going to use the restroom. Alright, she twanged back. I went back down the fluorescent hallway to the classroom which was unlocked and scanned the space for anything I could use. I plucked a pair of cat-eye green scissors from the craft table and headed to the restroom. And I did it there. The stall was checkered white and black to match the tiles of the floor. I tried to be fast. It stung like good poetry. As I pressed kind toilet paper against the blood, I wanted to laugh out of surprise. I didn’t think it would work so well. My head, which had been ringing with lame superheroes and annoying friends and parents that made no sense, began to settle in. We’re in this together.
I rolled my sleeve back down, flushed the toilet paper, stuck the scissors into my sweater pocket, and opened the stall. There, with a dimple in her cheek and a flair of ribbon in her hair, was a little girl waiting to use the stall. She couldn’t have been more than six. I smiled at her as I walked out. Like a valedictorian.
The last time I cut myself, I am mostly fine in a Starbucks bathroom. I watch my reflection beneath the gnarly bugged out light. I am only a week away from turning twenty-one. My hair is now a poof of blonde smoke billowing behind me.
My pants have commercial wounds. There are freckles of dust on my red corduroy jacket. I listen to the cafe outside the number protected door. The stylings of Katy Perry oozes from the speakers. Teenagers twitchy with beautiful pools of caffeine make loud references to cartoons while service pets keep guard in their harness.
The air outside was perky only a few moments ago. I felt wanted on the subway this morning. But still, I act as surgeon except the scalpel is a tiny piece of a razor I like to carry around in the case of my phone. The blood dries almost instantly. I wash my hands and toss the razor bit into the trash can, already choked out with white tissues.
This is survival, I think. This is how you stay fine. This is the deal. I don’t roll my sleeves back down when I walk out of the restroom.
I hold the door open for an older man dressed in ruffles of a green button-down shirt. I tell him everything with my eyes.
Jasmine Ledesma lives in New York. Her work has appeared in places such as The Southampton Review and Maudlin House among others. She has won the John Costello Award in creative nonfiction. Her debut chapbook, Racehorse, is due to be published by Dancing Girl Press this summer.