Posted on: February 5, 2015
The house was empty. As Quinn walked through the garage she found that both of her parents’ vehicles were missing. Usually, by the time she walked back from school her father was already home and preparing dinner, cleaning the vegetables and ridding the meat of every ounce of fat. Her mother would then pull in the driveway 40 minutes later and review all of Quinn’s homework before stepping in to relieve her father of his cooking duties. Quinn had forgotten about the revealing of the new wing in her mother’s hospital this evening, which both parents were required to attend.
Her brother’s car was also nowhere to be seen, which meant he most likely stayed behind at school to help prep for play rehearsals. Either that, or he was busy getting high at his friend Pat’s house. He could get away with things like that.
Quinn had a reputation to uphold, a schedule to keep. Her entire life had become a dictated routine. Everything her parents expected of her, or everything she thought they expected of her, she became. Day after day she lost pieces of herself in order to fit into the mold that had been prepared for her. Her parents knew who she would be from the time she was conceived and had her every life decision mapped out in color-coordinated files.
In reality, Quinn didn’t know who she was anymore. The only thing she knew was that she needed relief from expectations – and she knew just where to find it.
Her first respite from parental pressure was an accident that occurred during her pre-bed shower – the only time that was hers alone. Quinn could wash and shave in just under ten minutes, so she used the rest of her time to remove every mask she wore throughout the day: the cheerleading captain, the Honors student, the “perfect” child. The steady beating of the water from the showerhead drowned out her sobs as she sat on the shower floor hugging her knees. As Quinn pulled herself up, she lost her footing and slipped backwards.
Once she sat up, she began to feel the tiniest ounce of relief. It started slow, the pain that ebbed through her every nerve dissipating. As she looked to the floor, she noticed a thin crimson stream weaving its way through the current to the drain. Reaching beneath her, she pulled her detached razor blade from the once supple skin of her thigh. It had embedded itself in her flesh after being knocked loose in her fall. Quinn was nervous at first, but she also felt a solace that was too sweet a drug to deny.
Instead of taking the time to write in her journal as she used to, Quinn now transformed her body into her journal; practicing calligraphy on her inner thighs and underarms as they became the alternating front and back pages, her wrists the footnotes.
Her mind was spinning, thoughts racing at a dizzying pace. Everything inside of her hurt, and the ache was more than she could bear. Quinn relished in the fact that today she had at least an hour to herself, if not more. She opened her bedroom door just enough to throw her bags from school and cheerleading inside, then headed straight for the bathroom. She turned on the shower, but not the fan. She liked the way the room filled with steam and made the air almost too thick to breathe. She stepped into the tub letting the near-boiling water scald her skin. As it cascaded around her, she let every thought she’d harbored and rejected throughout the day come rising to the surface. Every conversation in her mind that was stifled to pay attention in class, every dismissal from those around her, every emotion she had to cut off to appear normal, every twitch, tick, and anxiety attack she had to restrain; she let them all come flooding in. With every line she drew into her upper thighs she allowed it all to rise up in chaos and ooze out of her skin; her crosshatching marking every thought and feeling screaming for a way out. She shook less, she began to calm.
Finally, she could breathe.
She was able to concentrate on the sound and feeling of her lungs filling and deflating, like hearing music for the first time.
As she sat emptying herself beneath the steady shower, she felt the beauty of her etchings that followed the lines of her veins and sinews. Her body had become a braille novel, but she was the only one blind enough to read it.
By the time she pulled herself out of the shower the entire room was filled with a steamy fog. She loved walking through it, feeling high, as though she were stepping into a dream. She couldn’t help the smile as it spread across her face as she opened the door and it all came rolling out like an avalanche across the floor and down through the hall until it disappeared into the coolness of the fresh air.
The blood was still trickling down her legs as she walked to her room. She kept a drawer of fabric bandages to help the cuts clot and close. She had read up on how much blood loss was too much and how to take proper care of knife wounds. She was usually very careful, but on this rare occasion she had let herself go a little too far. She was glad to be able to let these fresh journal entries air out rather than suffocate and itch, hiding under her varsity sweatpants.
Quinn was so wrapped up in her release, she was halfway to her dresser before she noticed that her window was open. It wasn’t until she turned toward the gentle breeze that she recognized Celia sitting cross-legged on her bed. She watched her friend’s smile turn to shock.
Written by: Julia Hy
Photograph by: Jaemin Riley
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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