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Shiny Little Threats
Carlos didn’t bother to hug me after I came out of English; instead, he asked, “What’s this?” holding up the little, folded purple cloth I used for wrapping up the razor I’d given to Saul so that I wouldn’t be tempted to use it.
I was repeating the F-word ten-fold in my head, staring at him wide-eyed as a knot formed in the pit of my stomach. I should’ve known Saul would tell Carlos; they were friends, after all. Even if he was my best friend, and I’d trusted him with my ugly secret.
I don’t even remember why I cut myself. In fact, I don’t even think I had a logical reason for it. It was relieving, yet scary, and brought up my moods—sort of. I’ve never been sure of any of these things, but I was sure as hell of one thing: he wasn’t supposed to find out.
I always thought it was a stupid thing to do. I knew people who did it, who used to do it, and I shunned whoever did. Then I read something somewhere about how the Romans believed that there was some kind of balance in people of blood, acid, and two other things I forget. Anyways, it was believed that when people were extremely depressed or in low spirits, it was because of an imbalance in the blood, so, people would cut themselves open and bleed “the imbalance” back into “balance.” So, one day, when I had been really mean and had a bad attitude with my boyfriend for no reason, I tested it out, ‘cause y’know, one never knows, right? At least that’s what I used to tell myself.
So I did it, but they were only scratches, which is how I found out that the stinging momentarily distracted me from my current thoughts. I told myself I wouldn’t do it again after that because it really was ridiculous. That was a lie. The wounds became noticeable mars and looked like a cat or small dog had clawed me on my arms and hands. That’s when I found that physical pain distracted me for long periods of time, and after doing it, I felt better. I thought of it as punishment for whenever I upset someone I cared about.
I didn’t think of it as a problem until Carlos found out—in the worst way any boyfriend would want to discover something horrible about their girlfriend: through another person.
“What is this?” he repeated again more impatiently. “Chabela, just tell me the truth,” he grimaced, taking a step closer.
“I don’t want to talk about it, just . . . just throw it away, O.K.?” I looked away and stalked off before he could get to me, putting on a fake smile before heading to lunch.
He didn’t ask me about it again for weeks until he cornered me in the hallway on a Wednesday after school to interrogate me. I told myself I wouldn’t tell him anything for fear that he’d think I was crazy and had problems, but I felt compelled to speak when he showed me the cuts he made to be even with me. They looked like he slid a cheese grater down his forearm. I couldn’t place what the look on his face meant, but it wasn’t pleasant.
He murmured between pauses, “Do you know what it feels like… when you’re madly in love with someone… and someone else tells you… that they’re doing this,” he scratched the scabs off the fresh wound, making it bleed again, “to themselves?”
Tears were clouding my eyes, drowning my voice, and flooding my lungs and heart, making me feel like I was plunged into a black abyss of misery and remorse, but my anger eclipsed that:
“What the hell do you even care? It’s not a big deal to you, and you have no reason for doing that to yourself.” I glared at him, grabbing his arm and turning it over to see if there were any more.
He snatched it away. “And you don’t have the right to tell me what I feel!” he growled. “You’re an idiot for doing this. You have no reason. You’re being sorry and stupid.”
I sucked in air through my teeth. “I’m not dealing with you right now,” I muttered, turning away, but before I could get any further he yanked me back and pinned me between his arms.
“I’m going to keep doing it until you stop—and worse if you keep it up,” he whispered angrily. I could see his chest heaving while trying to control himself. “I’ll cut open a vein and end up in the emergency room if I have to, Chabela, I swear I will.”
I wanted to scoff at that, but I couldn’t. If he says he’ll do something, he’ll do it. I knew that much about Carlos. I was bursting at the seams, and I couldn’t take it any longer, so instead of continuing to fight, I let the lid of anger pop off my bottle of grief and broke down, falling to the floor on my knees and promising that I’d stop as long as he didn’t do anything like that again.
I sort of broke my promise a month later. I’d gotten a long paper cut on the top of my hand, and had stretched my skin so that it’d hurt and bleed more. I was stupid for that, especially since Saul was sitting next to me, and he knew the reasons as to why I did things better than I did.
“Quit it, dude,” he said, nudging my shoulder. “You stopped, didn’t you?”
“I was just being bored…” I sighed (which was partly true).
“Whatever. You better quit. Don’t come whinin’ to me when you two have another fight. I don’t wanna fight with you, but keep it up, and I’ll ignore you.”
I frowned at him. “I wasn’t doing anything,” I muttered irritably.
“Quit lying. I saw your eyes when you were pulling apart your skin. All I’m sayin’ is you better stop, if you know what’s good for you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Ok…” I grumbled just as the bell rang. I rushed out without him, thinking that I really should take all the old razors I have and throw them away as a way to tell the world and myself that it really was over. I wasn’t being emo back in class with the paper cut… a lot of people squeeze or stretch their cuts so they bleed more. It looks cool, I rationalized.
Eventually, I found all the razors I’d hidden around my room to throw away, but decided that it would be best if Carlos did it for me. We would both say good-bye to the thing that nearly broke us. A month without these wasn’t bad at all, so the rest of my life should be fine, shouldn’t it? I gave the shiny little threats to Carlos at school the next day, and while we were walking across the street to class he pulled one out and stuck it into the grass, all the way in, and the rest he tossed in the trash.
“Why in the ground?”
“Habits that are dead need to be buried,” he mumbled, taking my hand and kissing the months-old scars on it. “What made you decide to finally stop, Chabelitta?”
“Carlos,” I mumbled, feeling my face heat up, “and Saul. I don’t want to lose my best friend or best friend/boyfriend.”
“Good.” He smiled.
“Good,” I repeated, for once, truly relieved.