Until It Isn’t Blue
The gulf holds my rowboat with trembling hands. Although I’m prone to motion sickness, I’m too exhausted to feel nauseous. It’s been five consecutive nights without sleep. Bad decision. Hiding from the nightmares only forced them to chase after me instead.
My bed lies ten miles behind me, fashioned with the most expensive, plush materials my husband could buy. A throne for a queen. Look too long at it and it starts to whisper sweet seductions. Come. Lie down. Take a load off. Remarkable how insomnia can stretch its arms so far, around such an enormous barrier, just to pull my eyelids apart.
My husband knows nothing of it, of course. He lies there, snoring like a pig, while the nightmares play out in the empty space beyond the bed.
It’s always the accident. The accident that taught me the irony of human flesh: How it becomes more raw the more it cooks. The accident that burned away my nasal cartilage and the hair on my scalp forever. The accident that required a year of physical rehabilitation and cast me into a hellhole of condescending assurances and clichéd platitudes like
We love you for you are, and
You’re beautiful on the inside.
My husband and two daughters mean well, but…
The flames. It’s always the flames. Dancing at the edge of the bed. Mocking me.
I should have hit the breaks instead of swerving right, over the edge, down the steep brushy slope into the bonfire below where some hippie fucking college kids thought it would be a great place to host one.
“If it weren’t for the bravery of those young kids, you wouldn’t be alive today,” Dr. Antonio had told me when I woke up.
He wasn’t wrong about everything, though. He knew about the anger. The resentment. He knew the pain would eventually become numb because everything would become numb. He told me about the D-word. That I would likely need therapy and medicine for the rest of my life to cope with it.
I sway in the little rowboat now, the surrounding gulf and vast Atlantic ahead. Feeling blue, they call it. Blue like the water that quavers beneath the boat, like the early dawn moonlight that glows above me. I’m no poet, but this is the most fitting place to do what I’m about to do. I grab the paring knife from my pocket.
My watch reads 6:29AM. This shouldn’t take too long. They won’t even know I left the house. They’ll probably still be asleep when I return.
They should know it’s not their fault. My husband does his best to love me, the beast I’ve become; my daughters spend more time with now than ever. Anyone can see what a comfortable life I’ve been afforded.
I won’t allow it to win.
I can’t let this gulf be everything that holds me, and I’m not leaving this boat until it isn’t blue anymore.
You’re beautiful on the inside, they said.
Let’s shed off this ugly casing, then.
Blood seeps out from the top of my forearm; the paring knife opens its journey. It travels down and peels the flesh away like potato skin. I think about the bark I ripped off of tree trunks as a child. My muscles show through the rectangular exposure. I clench my fist and watch the sinewy dexterity expand and contract.
I drop the pared filet of flesh in the water. A dark red emulsifies into the surrounding blue like food coloring.
The numbness fades; feeling rushes through me like a sensory overload, vivid and intoxicating.
I push the knife blade against my lower jaw and think it’s a damn shame I have to remove the first smile I’ve had in ages.
I wrote this as part of a fixed form collection of short stories called a ‘symmetrina.’ I’ll admit it: I still don’t exactly know what a ‘symmetrina’ is, but I’m a knucklehead and wrote one anyway. You don’t need to know all the rules of basketball to shoot hoops at your local YMCA. As long as you show up in a Nike sleeveless top to fully accentuate your dad bod and yell BUCKET! before bricking an open lay up, you’ll fit right in.