Content Warning: self harm
I told myself I didn’t need you. It wasn’t as if you couldn’t see. Couldn’t see the way I turned away when you stubbed your little toe on the jagged edge of the dishwasher, and you sat on the floor screaming incoherently about all the jagged edges and all the stupid dishwashers.
You were all jagged edges.
I told myself I could live without you. I tore imaginary holes in the wall by the toilet in our tiny bathroom, raging with redrimmed eyes as if it wasn’t only ever tearstains I left behind. They weren’t jagged, they were straight. Mottled rivers of blue, red, why don’t you see?
You did see. You saw the stains on your walls. You saw the jagged edges I carved in my skin and the cuts you stubbed your high voice on, shrieking to the next person you saw about your daughter who didn’t know how to use knives.
She did know. She stashed them under the sink. The place she was supposed to clean, and she knew you would never look. She wanted your tearstains, your mottled tracks on the impenetrable walls. She didn’t care that your toe was stubbed because she learned from you. She took after you, her mother.
I screamed when you screamed. Careened with the coffee cups you threw in an effort to smash the walls. I knew I could have helped you, told you those walls will never break, but I wanted you to see for yourself. Wanted your cheeks bloodied with tears like mine were. Why don’t you see?
I remember the day I sat you down, rubbing my shirtsleeve over jagged edges under the table. You looked bored. You looked tired. Of me. Of what you found under the sink when you checked the last place I’d thought you’d look. I replaced knives with shards of your coffee cup. I maimed the wall with my tears.
You didn’t want to sit, at first. Your plants needed to be watered, and the shards of coffee cup taken out with the trash. I could have helped you, said I’ve already taken care of that, but I didn’t bother. The knives were back in their butcher-block. You were happy you hadn’t stubbed your toe that day.
I rubbed my shirtsleeve over my shoulder, looking down, killing the floor when I couldn’t kill the walls. My glares cut gores in the wooden planks, imaginary. All jagged edges. You demanded to know what I was keeping you for. I sank into the chair and told you how I envied my friends for their mothers and it all came out wrong. You said I must be sick, for all the shit coming out of my mouth. My toe stubbed over the jagged floor, folding over itself in a cringe I felt to my bones.
You folded over yourself, bending long and wide with the creak of your spine that was jagged from hacking at the walls for so long. From rendering expensive metal useless after you’d stubbed your toe on its uselessness.
You screamed incoherently about all the bends in your back and all the stupid daughters, flying high in your own head while I rubbed the mountain edges of the wound on my foot. I saw the sink in my mind and you said why don’t you see? Are the walls just not thick enough for you? The knives not as sharp as you’d like?
Let me go. You were as impenetrable as the walls. It took more than my words to break you, more than all the flesh-mountains burnt into my skin from your wrath. I shoved a shoe on my bloodied foot. Ran with it. Laughed when I’d cleared the forest, cleared the wall. I ran away from you. I thought I didn’t need you. I told myself I didn’t need you to survive.
Your foot powder stayed with me in the shoe I’d thought was mine. I took it off. The concrete was all jagged edges under my flesh wound. I ran from the blood tracks I made, balancing one foot-powdered shoe to one bloodied heel. I heard the rest of your screams in time to a woodpecker by our neighbor’s windowsill.
But you couldn’t see me. Couldn’t see the way I turned away when the muscles in my neck turned traitor and turned it around to look back at what was left of our house. The walls were really crumbling, this time. The brick and mortar fell prey to new tears and melted under the hot sun. I didn’t know why I was so sad to see them go. Didn’t know why it bothered me to see them maimed and mottled there, the redrimmed eyes of a woman who wouldn’t come after me staring from under the rubble.
My feet weren’t traitors. They knew where to go, what to do. They passed the trash truck on the way out, and I remembered my shards, my jagged edges, gathered at the back of the sink. I thought of your face when you’d find them, how it might be: apathetic; glad it wasn’t your useless, expensive metal. Glad you’d bought another coffee cup to replace the daughter you threw at the wall. I kept on running away from you. I told myself I didn’t need you. I told myself I could live without your high voice shrieking along with the crick in your back, stumbling along on your two stubbed toes. The reason for all your foot-powder.
The blood tracks faded into purple bruises. Bruises are broken vessels under the skin. I folded over myself, bending long and wide as my throat constricted from lack of water, want of food. The concrete nudged the underside of my foot, bending into its mountain-ridges, put the shoe back on. I thought back on your face, the tearstains I thought I’d never see. Maybe they were for the walls. I hoped they were for me.
My feet were never traitors. My neck was. I walked with my face looking back, stubbed my littlest toe on the concrete.
I saw mirages on the concrete. Imaginary holes. Pools of black coffee swirling; filling gores cut in the road. I heard feet pounding on the pavement. I told myself it was imaginary, too.
I heard them getting closer. My feet betrayed me, stopped to rest while they bloodied the sidewalk. Black coffee dripped over the ledge while I scraped foot-powder out from the shoes.
I heard my name. Felt it bounce off my back on an echo. I didn’t want it to be you. I did. I was the walls: impenetrable. Knives could do nothing, not even tearstains. I could have told you not to bother, but I didn’t try. I heard it again. ‘I see you now.’
I love you, I’m sorry, I love you. All words I’d wished to hear.
I want you, I want you, I need you. My traitor-feet lowered me to the black coffee, my stubbed toes curling into themselves. Come back home.
How will we live without the walls? I asked. How will we keep out the rain?
Your arms came around me and you sighed. It’s a better sound than screaming. You smiled a smile and it bounced off my face in an echo, telling me everything. You have straight teeth.
No jagged edges.