Age: 17, Grade: 12
School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educator: Kasumi Parker
Category: Flash Fiction
You should go kill yourself. She wrote that one down in red ink, jagged edges scribbled over the page. It reminded her of the way the words sounded, shattering from her mother’s mouth, crashing into little pieces that bounced across the wooden floor, piling up around her feet. Like cracked glass marbles. That’s what she thought of when looking at the cuts running across the tops of her toes all the way up to her ankles. She wears socks all the time. The cold, she would say to herself, I get cold. She wonders why losing blood does not make her lighter. Their dried crusts must make them weigh more, she thinks, peeling at them more until they run free again. But her feet swell, itching and burning under her red socks. Burning, maybe it will burn some of it off.
No matter how many scraps of paper she keeps at the bottom of her desk — You’re getting so fat, look at those stretch marks. — You are a disgrace to the human race, you useless eater. — writing them down did not seem to help. She refuses to use black ink, always an iteration of bright colors because you were “supposed to make the insults yours”, so they did not “hurt anymore”. She realizes she hates internet therapists. Always so simple. When she gets tired of writing, she sketches the fish-shaped scar on her lower left arm. Drawing its scales until blue layered on blue layered on blue. Imagining her mother’s nails scraping away, revealing the fleshy interior, hands pricked full of bones, embedding under her nails. And yet her arm remains, misshapen and thick. She draws on top of it, wondering what tattoos would look good on it. Then she remembers tattoo costs are measured by size. Maybe the fish will do.
In her room, her desk faces away from the door. The doorknob is broken from when her mother tried to get in. She practices opening it, taking out the mesh screen, planning her trajectory down to the scaffold, and jumping onto the old ginko before running into the night. She locked it that time, hiding, and considered jumping out her window. She knew that she will need to fit through the window and closed it. That was when the doorknob fell away, its silver head dropping to the ground before being hurtled at her. She did not flinch and did not feel the impact on her head. She knew she would not be fast enough and sank to the ground. Tears melting into the tiling. Maybe then something beautiful could grow.
She imagines the walls around her heart. Layers of brick covering slabs of concrete covering glassy chrysalises of diamond. She wonders if she squeezes hard enough whether her heart would shrink away, leaving a wave of blood through her veins, emptying at her feet. She can feel them tingling underneath the fabric, flaming. If she could just will herself to disappear, then everything would stop. But she does not have her mother’s grit. Not her anger. Not her fire. She had not even inherited her mother’s eyes. They were a piercing gold, coronas speckled with darker brown ridges that shone when she screamed. What lies underneath unmarked? She considers cutting over her scars to untangle from them but she remembers her feet, wrapped in two layers of socks to stop from bleeding onto her shoes and crosses her legs.
She had gotten her period five years ago and began weighing herself before and after it. Losing blood never seemed to do anything. Her mother does not believe in tampons, giving her small pantyliners. But her flow is too heavy and stains her underwear in thick, red mucus. She stands in the bathroom, underwear on the ground, her legs bare. She runs her fingers over the blood, seeing the imprints of her fingerprints stained scarlet. She runs it across her neck, leaving her skin sticky. Then, moving her fingers down, she sticks them inside of her. It hurts. She smiles.
She wishes to break further, leaving her suffocating shell behind. Cocooned so tightly around her wings. Too heavy. She may have cut them off already.
My mother thinks I am afraid of death. She thinks that the syllables from her shrill voice, bouncing off the frail, white walls will enjamb themselves in my head and cause my brain to morph into an obedient, sane one. She thinks that throwing all the books off of my desk and tearing through them will make my body shake in trepidation for what she is capable of – and will do to me. She thinks that pinching my thighs, the imprints of her nails will somehow make them shrink or at least make me hate them more. But when I see those glass shards fall from her lips, grow from her fingertips, and take root in my head —
I remember that glass cuts on both sides.