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May 2, 2019
May 1, 2019
May 2, 2019

CW: Self-harm


Write a Story About Your Scars
The teacher says, write a story about your scars. Think about where they came from. Write about a bike accident, running barefoot through the street, jumping from your grandfather’s roof on a dare. Write about accidents and carelessness and humor. Stretch the truth if you like. She smiles, sweeps a thin-boned hand through the air. Have fun with it.
Write about your parents’ garage in central Maryland, the rotting corn fields flanking your backyard, the neighbors that looked down their nose at you when you walked the dog, her fur matted and gray, her eyes watery. Step out from the kitchen, down the concrete steps, into dimness. Click the door shut behind you, against the dog’s whines. Choke back tears. Hear the crickets chirp from hazy corners. Find the metal hook that’s meant to support snow shovels, raise your arm to the wall, and drag your skin down over it, one, two, three. Swallow your tongue, curled and heavy in the back of your throat, and breathe easier. Stop trembling. Roll down your sleeves and return to dinner.
Scrap this.
Write about the hospital at Franklin Square. Press your forehead to the window and stare out at the grass, at the silver park benches, abandoned in the heat. Smell antiseptic and moldy yogurt and apple juice. When directed, go to the door and hold your arms out for inspection. Let the nurse rub Vaseline on your scars, clucking her tongue at their redness, at the knotted ridge on
your inner elbow. Once she leaves, wipe them dry on the inside of your shirt so they won’t heal too quickly, so you won’t feel the helpless urge to make more. Hide a pencil in your underwear so you can scrawl bad poetry in the corners the book your mother brought; Everything That Rises Must Converge. You aren’t allowed to have anything sharp.
Scrap this too.
Write about the only scar that survives the years; white and perfect, a straight line drawn across the center of your forearm. Stand in the bathroom stall behind the gym, backpack between your knees, left hand posed in mid-air, fingers curled. Use a tiny blade, unwound from a plastic pencil sharpener. Be shocked at the way your skin snaps open, at the heavy smell of blood. Press toilet paper to the gash, then paper towels. Run your arm through cool water. Feel your heart pounding into the open air. Leave your backpack on the floor and stumble down the hall to the nurse’s office, dripping onto the tile floor. Her office is dark and empty. Start to cry. The soccer coach finds you instead, and wraps you in a tiny bandage, the skin sealing perfectly. It’s not as big, not as deep, as you’d thought. She washes her hands thoroughly, then looks surprised to see you still sitting there. Why doesn’t she call your mother? Why doesn’t she tell anyone? Doesn’t she know?
Delete this one entirely.
Turn in a mostly-lies story about burning your hand on the stove, about your mother coddling you, then screaming at you. Write about your skin swelling and starting to crack, your pulpy fingers unable to grip, a plate hitting the floor and shattering. This part is true: your mother said, you’re selfish. She said, you make me feel like a bad mother. She said, think of how you’re hurting me. Are you trying to punish me? Go to bed at half-past-four, pulling the blankets high to block out the sun, tucking the dog in with you. Listen to her wheezing, her lungs older than the rest of her. Don’t cry. Fall asleep with her shedding all over your legs, pink and pulsing hand tucked deep into your collarbone.
The teacher sends you to the counseling office.
Sit across from a man in a ratty wool sweater. Bite your tongue against the betrayal. Answer his questions about your therapist, your dosage, your home life. Stretch and let him see the flat, perfect skin of your forearms, all healed. Stop yourself from jiggling your leg, tapping your pen, slamming the door on your way out. Return to class and sit in the front row. Listen attentively. The teacher looks past you, her body contorted against the board, her mouth a flat line. In your lap, fold your hands together. Hook your nails into the tenderness of your wrist and pull.


Emory Russo is a trans man, cat enthusiast, and Maryland native. He currently lives in Tampa, Florida.