I feel myself trying to be charming, and then I realize I’m obviously trying to be charming, and then I try to be even more charming to make up for the fake charm, and then I’ve basically turned into Liza Minnelli: I’m dancing in tights and sequins, begging you to love me. There’s a bowler and jazz hands and lots of teeth.
The question I've asked more often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I supposed these questions storm cloud over every marriage: What are you thinking how are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?
Sometimes I think illness sits inside every woman, waiting for the right moment to bloom. I have known so many sick women all my life. Women with chronic pain, with ever-gestating diseases. Women with conditions. Men, sure, they have bone snaps, they have backaches, they have a surgery or two, yank out a tonsil, insert a shiny plastic hip. Women get consumed.
For those who need a name, there's a gift basket of medical terms. All I know is cutting made me feel safe. It was proof. Thoughts and words, captured where I could see them and track them. The truth, stinging, on my skin, in a freakish shorthand. Tell me you're going to the doctor, and I'll want to cut worrisome on my arm. Say you've fallen in love and I buzz the outlines of tragic over my breast. I hadn't necessarily wanted to be cured.
I was pretending, the way I often did, pretending to have a personality. I can't help it, it's what I've always done: The way some women change fashion regularly, I change personalities. What persona feels good, what's coveted, what's au courant? I think most people do this, they just don't admit it, or else they settle on one persona because they are too lazy or stupid to pull a switch.
It was that summer, too, that I began the cutting, and was almost as devoted to it as my newfound loveliness. I adored tending to myself, wiping a shallow red pool of my blood away with a damp washcloth to magically reveal, just above my naval: queasy. Applying alcohol with dabs of a cottonball, wispy shreds sticking to the bloody lines of: perky. I had a dirty streak my senior year, which I later rectified.
I grew up in the '80s where there's a lot of these kind of post-apocalyptic, post-comet, post-whatever it was, so that always captured my imagination a lot as a little kid, that idea of getting access to secret places and being able to roam around where you're not supposed to.
I am a cutter, you see. Also a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber. I am a very special case. I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams. It's covered with words - cook, cupcake, kitty, curls - as if a knife-wielding first-grader learned to write on my flesh. I sometimes, but only sometimes, laugh. Getting out of the bath and seeing, out of the corner of my eye, down the side of a leg: baby-doll. Pulling on a sweater, and in a flash of my wrist: harmful. Why these words?
I'm not someone who can be depended one five days a week. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday? I don't even get out of bed five days in a row-I often don't remember to eat five days in a row. Reporting to a workplace, where I should need to stay for eight hours-eight big hours outside my home- was unfeasible.