Monday, June 4, 2018

Pink Lines

It’s almost that time again. 
I look down at the jagged line marring the—mostly—smooth terrain around it. The red is long gone, and today, it seems, the pink has finally faded as well. 
When it’s red I can’t do more than a quick rub without a white flash of pain, but when it’s pink I can do far more. I can push, poke, give it a light scratch, and each touch sends painful tendrils up and up until they pop, leaving euphoric tingles in their place. 
The pink—that’s what I’ve aptly named the in-between time. The pink—that’s why I do it. 
I rub the jagged line again, and the feeling I get is completely exterior to me. No tingles, no pops, just another mountain formed from the tectonic plates in my control. 
I look at the other jagged lines marring the inside of my leg, faded and white. Some still have the ability to grow unruly hair, and some haven’t grown hair since the day I sliced the lines into existence.
I’m rubbing my fingers over each of them like it’s my own form of brail when a loud knock interrupts me. 
“Dawn,” my sister whines, stretching out my name, “I need to shower before school too, hurry up!”
I pull my sweats on, brush my teeth, and splash some water on my face before exiting the bathroom. That’s going to have to do for today. “All yours Abbs,” I tell my sister from the hall as I walk back to my room. 
I opt for some capris. They aren’t as long as jeans, but they’ll still be stifling in the heat. Although it’s the end of September the humidity just won’t quit, and my mom doesn’t like to see the lines on my legs. She tries to pretend they're stretch marks, but we all know the truth. Also, I despise going to the gym so there’s no way my small frame has any type of stretch mark on it. I let her pretend, though. It’s easier that way. 
“Good morning sunshine!” Speaking of my mom, that would be her. 
“Morning momma.” I open the fridge—no eggs. I find some Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the pantry and decide to have a bowl of that. I pour the milk over the cereal and let it sit for a couple mins. Once I’m satisfied with its sogginess I shovel it in to my mouth. 
“Hungry?” My mom comments, and chuckles.  
“You have to eat it fast once it gets soggy,” I explain around a glob of chewed cereal, “if you wait too long it kind of disintegrates.” 
“That’s disgusting,” my sister offers as she walks into the kitchen.
I open my mouth to show her another chewed glob, but a little bit starts to fall out. I try desperately to catch it with my tongue, but all that does is push the rest of it out of my mouth. I look up and see my mom and Abby looking right at me. Abby and I fall into a fit of giggles, and my mom just rolls her eyes.
“And here I thought I’d get to skip a lot of the gross stuff by stopping after two girls.”
My sister and I smile at each other across the table. She grabs her backpack, I grab my purse, and we make our way out to the car. I drive Abby to school pretty much every day. Sometimes it’s convenient because I have an appointment in the morning anyways, but all the other days I get to embarrass the hell out of her. 
Today, when we start getting close to the school I roll down all the windows… and lock them. 
“Come on Dawn, not again,” she whines, but I can see she’s hiding a smile under her pout.
When we pull up to the curb I turn the radio up as high as it goes playing ‘Ms. New Booty’. This one seems to have become a fan favorite, and by fans, I mean all the kids that laugh at me and Abby every day when I drop her off. 
“I LOVE YOU!” I scream out the window, waving like a crazy lady as I pull away. She throws a middle finger up over her head without turning around. Her version of ‘I love you too’. 

            “You can go on back, honey,” Nancy the receptionist tells me when I walk in the door, “you're the first one today.” 
            “Thanks, Nanc.” She’s a sweet old lady. 
            “Dawn, you’re looking awfully happy today.” That would be Miranda, my therapist.
            “Mornin’, Doc.” She hates when I call her that, but I hate coming to these appointments, so ‘Doc’ it is. 
            “What has you smiling today?”
            “Right to it, huh?” I look at her pointedly, but she just smiles that too calm annoying smile back at me. “Well, if you must know, I just dropped Abby off at school.”
            “Ms. New Booty?” She asks knowingly—a genuine smile is peeking through the wax figuring in its place. 
            “You know it,” I say with a grin. 
            “You know the drill,” she says, “pull your pants down.”
            “Your bedroom eyes could use some work,” I say and wink at her. I unbutton my capris and pull them down to my knees. 
            “All the way, Dawn,” She says over her shoulder without even looking at me. She pulls on her latex gloves.  
            I was lucky enough to cut just a little too deep on one occasion… that one put me in the hospital. Let me tell you what a nightmare that was! I had to talk to shrinks, doctors, legal professionals. They tested my pee and my blood—because they had to make sure I wasn’t using or abusing drugs or alcohol. They even had a glorified hospital babysitter watch over me at all times to make sure I wasn’t going to pull any fast ones on them.
            I tried to explain that I wasn’t trying to kill myself; I just pushed a little too hard that time. Ironically, no one listens to the person lying in the hospital bed. 
            Anyways, Doc now has a court order to check for fresh cuts. That’s part of the deal: meetings with Doc, being told to take my pants off when I walk in, oh and my mom gets to sit in the bathroom with me while I shave. I used to shave almost daily, now I do it once a week, and my mom talks to me the whole time. Legs, pits, pubes—who needs privacy?
            I push my pants down to my ankles. It makes me feel like a middle school boy at the urinal.
            “Come on, Dawn.” She gives me a stern glare. 
            I spread my legs as far as my pants will allow and she has a look around. As humiliating as this process is I don’t let it show. I don’t blush. I steel my expression. I never let myself cry. Not even when this Doctor is feeling her way across the inner planes of my legs, not even when she accidentally brushes up against the most private area of my body. 
            She doesn’t apologize. 
            “As you were,” she says. As you were. 
            “You mean dressed and decent?” This time she’s on the receiving end of the glare. Not that she’s facing me to see it. 
            She throws her gloves in the trash and washes her hands. Then she smears on some hand lotion, smells like vanilla. Then she does the thing I hate the most—she kicks off her heels and tucks her legs up into her armchair. As if we’re sitting in my living room chatting, rather than in her sterile, grey office. It’s clear she put in an effort to cheer the place up with the fake flowers, and the colorful throw pillows; but when you have to strip down to your panties and let her run her fingers over your biggest secret the colors lose their warmth. 
            “Like what you see today Doc?” I raise an eyebrow, and keep my feet planted firmly on the ground. 
            “Well, I didn’t see any new cuts, so I’m happy about that.”
            Now, we stare. If it were a blinking contest I’d win every time, she’s a blinker. 
            “Have you thought about harming yourself since our last visit?”
            “If, by visit, you mean the mandated appointment we had last week, then no, I haven’t thought about harming myself since then. I never think about harmingmyself, and I’ve told you all a thousand times I wasn’t trying to kill myself.” Through all that I held her stare, but what I say next makes me hang my head: “I don’t even really like the initial pain…I like the tingles that set in after. The blood clots, and the fresh wound is sensitive. That’s all.”
            She just looks at me. 
            “I wasn’t trying to kill myself.” I can’t count how many times I’ve said that. 
            “Tell me about what you were doing when it happened,” she says with that same blank face. It’s not a good look for her. 
            This pisses me off. She asks me every time. I put as much venom in my voice as I can muster and I tell her, “I was slicing a cut into my leg so I could feel the euphoric after effect. Unfortunately, I pushed a little too hard that time. And, also, unfortunately, my mom was the one to find me sitting on my floor, surrounded by blood soaked clothing, trying to stop the bleeding before she got home. Any more questions?” I’m breathing hard, my arms are crossed, and we’ve reached the same wall we reach every time I come in here. I’m done with the appointment and she knows it. 
            “Why do you feel so angry?” 
            Because you ask angering questions, I think. Out loud, though, I say, “because no matter how many times I tell you something you just continue to ask the same questions. That’s unbelievably annoying.”
            “Why is it annoying,” she questions further, 
            “Jesus, Doc, this is what I’m talking about.” She says nothing so I go on, “people don’t typically like repeating themselves, it makes you think that the person you're talking to isn’t listening.”
            “I’m listening to you, Dawn.” She makes a note in her little pad.
            “When? Are you listening when you stare at me like a blank mannequin, or are you listening when you write notes about me in your precious note pad?” 
            This earns another look, but this time of confusion. I look back at her, trying to copy the blank stare that all too often rests on her face. 
            “Ha!” Her smile breaks and she asks, “are you telling me that my face looks like the one you're making right now?”
            “Well, I will do my best not to make that face anymore. It’s awful,” she jokes, and grins at me. “You know, you're pretty funny,” she tells me. 
            “You think I’m funny?” I’m incredulous. I spend most of my time here lashing out and feeling violated—not telling jokes. 
            “You have a dry sense of humor, and you're kind of sarcastic, but, yes, I think you're pretty funny.”
            “That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” I admit. 
            “It’s crazy what happens when you have an agreeable conversation, right?” She adjusts herself in her chair, flipping her legs to tuck them under the other side of her body. 
            I roll my eyes at her shrink mumbo jumbo and check the time. Five minutes till I can leave—seems like it’s time for another staring contest. 

            Once I’m in the car by myself I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s like the walls of that office close in on me, but I don’t realize it until I’m back outside. 
            My phone dings from the center console where I left it—Doc doesn’t like cell phones—and, surprise, I have three texts from my mom asking how the appointment went. I think of all the ways I want to respond: fucking terrible, I was basically molested, how would you like spending an hour with someone who thinks you want to take your life? Instead, though, I settle on fine. 
            I go through the Chic Fil’ A drive through and get a large lemonade—fresh squeezed, bitch—and head over to the school to wait on my sister. I know it’s going to be a while, but I have a good book waiting in the passenger seat for me. Also, there’s no telling what time mom will get home, and I don’t want to chance running in to her on a therapy day. She asks too many questions. 
            I pull into a spot in the outskirts of the lot, recline my seat, and grab my book. When I prop my leg up by the window my capris rub my scars ever so slightly. Although the feeling isn’t sending tingles, it’s nice; and I bounce my leg up and down to make it continue. 

            “Whatthehell!” I jump up and bump my head on the ceiling. Why am I sleeping in my car?
            “Dawn, unlock the car!” 
            Ah, I was in the high school parking lot waiting on my sister and must have fallen asleep while I was reading. I click the button to release the lock, and my sister walks around to the passenger’s side and hops in. 
            “Why are you sleeping in the parking lot? That’s totally creepy.”
            “I was waiting for you, biotch. You're welcome.” I see her smile cracking through and know she doesn’t really think I’m creepy. “Hey!”
            “What?” she asks, while she is running her nasty tongue all over the straw of my lemonade. 
            I groan in exasperation. “Nothing, help yourself.”
            She takes control of the radio, turns it up, and rolls down her window. It’s warmed up a lot this afternoon and the fresh air feels good, so I roll mine down too.
            “My girls!” my mom coos when we walk through the door. It’s like she hasn’t seen us un a week—but, really, it’s only been a few hours. She’s standing at the oven stirring something in a big pot. It smells marvelous.
            “Whatcha making?” I peek over her shoulder and dip my finger into the pot.
            She bats my hand away, telling me, “it’s not ready yet, but in a couple hours we’ll be having chili.”
            “A couple hours?!” Abby and I whine in unison. 
            “Yes, a couple hours.” She fixes us with a stare. “You’ll survive.”
            Abby plops herself down on the couch and I drag myself back to my room. The capris must come off. A girl can only wear denim on the bottom half of her body for so long. I kick out of the pants, and revel in the sweet relief of fresh air on my legs for the first time all day. 
            I hop onto my bed, opening my book to where I think I was before I fell asleep, and start reading. Without even thinking about it I start running my fingers over the ridges between my legs. I’m desperate to feel even one little firework. One tendril of pain that snakes its way to euphoria. But, there’s nothing. I reread the paragraph I just absently ran my eyes over, but I can’t focus. 
            My appointment today sucked. She touched my marks like they were hers, when she could have easily just looked at my leg and seen that there were no new marks. I don’t want to feel that brush of her hand anymore.
            I want to feel the brush of something else. 
            I crawl under my bed—I know cliché—but the real treasures are between the box spring and the wooden board holding the bed up. I gently push up on the mattress and box spring, and see the glint of what I’m looking for. The blade is old, not as sharp as I’d like, but it works.
            I walk over and shut my door as quietly as possible, then turn the little lock on the handle. My sister knows how to pick it, but it would at least slow her down and buy me some time if she tries to come in. 
            I sit back on my bed, Indian style, and look at the little ridges. All white, no pink.
Where do I go next?
            There’s a little valley between two existing mountains that looks promising. I press the blade between them, push—not too hard—and slide. I hiss through the pain, and look down to see the color I’ve been missing. A little pink line, beading with red droplets, and sending tingles up and down my leg. 

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