You forget that humans have so much blood until you see it.
Lines of it, horizontal and vertical and sideways and diagon-ways, slant-ways and knife-ways.
He doesn’t show you, doesn’t try to hide, merely exists.
Your mouth forms words over and again that stick, pebbles in your throat. It’s a 99 pence plastic stocking filler toy that’s gummed up and broken before you even start.
“What happened?” (The “again” is silent.)
He answers in shards of light. They said, they said, they said, he said. So many third persons. Are they all the same one?
He rips the bandages off and tells me to smell the iodine. Hospitals and childhood and hostels come back to me, become me. I portrait myself, paint my face into being a deity of indifference.
I cannot meddle.
He was worried, that he got blood on his sheets. Angry that he ruined his favourite pair of jeans. He has to wear shorts now, the bandages poking out from underneath them. Glowing ghostly white, and the plasters are pale too.
Literally, he was sewn back together. We have the technology, we can rebuild him.
He had a friend with him, waiting. Who came, because he sent an A&E selfie. I can’t believe we snapchat fragility now, hashtag wrecked.
When he goes to pee, I see it, on his desk. Such a tiny, innocuous thing, this snap blade of his.
I pick it up, carry it with me as a token with a smear of his blood still on it.
I recite voodoo spells, wrap it in chains and tie it to a cinderblock, throw it in the poisonous lake that bubbles away in the centre of our campus.
(How strange, to have a university with a toxic centre. It’s a metaphor, I’m sure of it, it must be.
I just don’t know what for yet.)
The geese flee. Flapping, squawking refugees from that slither of metal and cold.
I take all the sharp edges from the world to my power-sander gaze, scratch off the sharp corners, marshmallow the steel.
I hear him come back and put it down.
He cleans the wounds, airs them out. Hanging them out to dry, like laundry. A clothes horse of himself.
He says he keeps the blade as it is safe. Safer that burning his flesh or snip-snipping arteries with scissors. There are only two scratches on his wrist, tiny and parallel. Tally marks?
There is no desire to die sooner than natural. We both want him to stop hurting.
What scares me most of all is how sensible he is. Rationality, parceled up with curly hair and a firm grasp of logic.
He is too sensible to really hurt himself, I say, when I can't sleep.
If he did die, I would sob bitterly. Should have done more, said more, hidden Ninja-like behind his door ready to protect him from himself. Should have Big Brothered his medication, strung him up in Spiderman silk so he could not move.
Worse still: one day, it would stop hurting. A person, reduced to a blip in my life, anecdotally.
Self-harm discussed over tea and toast. Pass us the butter, are you okay, one time a long time ago my friend died. Well, obviously.
I mean – the “one time”, that is. Obviously. Death is a pretty one-time thing.