The author of rhyme rose from secluded corners of recollection, provoking the flickering of a vision behind my eyes. I felt the ghost of a hand under my sheets, then the brushing of his face against my cheek. Dark, defiled poetry sat inside me and whispered across my skin.
Before experiencing the rhyme, I was the little girl dressed in pink cotton pants, carelessly streaked in strawberry jam.
I was not strong, nor was I weak. I was not the long blonde ponytail pulled back too straight, nor the blue eyes painted by a storm. I was not small, nor pretty, nor ugly. I could be none of those things as I was ignorant to any reflection within an insignificant mirror. Though unaware of wearing a remarkable smile, my laugh resonated to memory; a reverberating rising of my voice in an unmistakable indication of childhood.
The world then began to spiral into the swivelling and staining of dark ink and language on undisclosed papers.
Upon the betrayal of my young body, I lost the way to look at myself on a reflective surface. A kind of agony was learned that reached the eyes venomously glaring back at me; the kind that made me turn away with disgust. Clean skin and soft hair hid unseen transgressions riddled under the thin film that held my frame together.
Behind a locked door at age five my history of deliberate self-infliction began, turning the rhymes of the author into those of my own creation.
The meaning of pain was elusive. I sought to harness the power of suffering; to shape and to control it. I slipped into secrets; into dark versed, unspoken phrases built on sombre, sordid pages.
My life scraped over a rough surface toward the distance. Repetitive, hushed literature was held captive behind the stillness of my lips.
There was no need to stay aware where I lay upon the violated fabrics of my bed. After being condemned into the night, my mind created something where nothing was or could be; something small, something big; something that didn’t matter, or mattered too much. I saw myself in the ether; a place built from thoughts and imagination. I became who I wanted, or needed, or couldn’t be.
Looking up past the ceiling to fantastic tales and adventures, I forgot the silhouette laying at my side; forgot his breath at my neck or the chill of his hands. If I turned away long enough, there was a way to forget the way bones laid over bones.
As time changed me into a woman, moments recoiled from each other and trudged onward. The mirror captured my appearance as the years changed my form. I left my ponytails and pink cotton pants to the little girl I once was. The mirror became a reflection, and a metaphor, and a broken, spiteful glare.
Not every story comes in dark rhyming verse. Knowing this rhythm persistently pushed me to force that same dark poetry onto my exterior. I recreated the darkest of poems; the most wrong of all rhymes.
The small piece of sharp metal between two pinched fingers was cold, and the floor was hard; I rest upon it with a tight grimace reaching across my features. Without the certitude of the cut so clearly presented before me, I wouldn’t have known that my skin was breaking. I felt no pain, yet the tip of the blade sunk so obviously beneath the surface of my leg.
The sculpting of my form forced a concealed truth to the surface; an outward evidence of nights gone by. Tangible stories were written on my figure. If I dug deep enough, I might carve out my soul.
Pulling the blade away, I studied the laceration. Initially, I wondered if I had failed; not that there’s any right or wrong way to cut, though I was confused as to why the wound remained dry. While looking away only long enough to put the razor down, I felt a sudden dull tickle. It was a surprisingly strange feeling when the blood finally brimmed to the surface and travelled over the infinite stretches of my calf. I watched in silent fascination as the dark wetness trickled down my leg, accumulated under my foot, and gathered in a puddle behind my heel.
Sorrow leaked from me, then lay lifeless on the floor; a mass of crimson relief. I had no idea that the canvas that was my body could hold so much liquid insanity.
This dark poetry that lived when the nights took away more than the daylight simply went unheard. The words and the rhymes were stripped down to the letters that held them together. They held no more pain and no more power.
The memory of the ceiling I once looked upon was pushed deep into the distance. In the blackest hour, I faded into another world. This may have seemed the portal to the leaving of my mind, though crazy was a word for the misspoken. There was no crazy in this. It was the logical step to take before true madness swept me away.
Although I learned otherwise, the solution that took away the rhymes was everything I dreamed it would be. Cutting, I believed, was captivating; I was wrong.
Truly though, the word wrong was inadequate and naked; it stood too simple on its own. The price of my mistake surged through my sight, my thoughts, and my sense of feeling.
My face remained a stranger to the mirror, though soon the need arose to mask the traces of the blade from those who might look upon me. My future unravelled. The deceitful pose I required of myself crept into the person I became. I stood in such a manner or fashioned the way I spoke, to hide what I had done. I was submissive to untold stories of sitting on floors where my own blood became my master.
Just like I had to obey the man under the sheets, I submitted to the secrets that crept out from under my skin. I became the secret. This thing I found that brought a sudden drawing of breath was the thing I later came to regret. Regret; the sick feeling in my gut that told me I was at fault for the brushing of his face against my neck. I should have said, “No.” I should have fought him off. I should have been strong. I went to this place of guilt that made my insides rot, then built a smell that came up from my belly and into my nose. I was a thing of rot; breaking apart, and building up a thick mould within; a carcass.
I failed. I was the only one to see it; the only one who knew.
I thought, ”Don’t touch me. Please God, if he could just not touch me. Don’t turn the lights out. I’m begging you not to turn the lights out, or he will come. He will come even though years have passed, and thousands of miles lie between us. He will slip into the place where the daylight exhaled itself into the sunrise.”
Fire from beyond the edge of the earth opened up to swallow the midnight hour.
Between darkness and light, I sat. I rose and touched the walls of it. The sheets lay over the bed. The past crept into my head. The story etched itself into thin, torn paper, building phrases made of silent gazes past the ceiling.
Only I knew about the man who crept into my sheets or of the blood across my floor. “How do I make it clean? How do I take the evidence and throw it away?” I sighed. “How do I throw myself away?”
I forced myself to pay for the sins of the hands that were the origins of the poems that whispered in the night.
I have bled for the past. I have built my regrets. My solutions became secrets; as secret as the author of rhyme.
Bloodstained finger-paintings smear carefully worded, unrecited poetry. A series of words, matched in sound, fit together, seeking, though failing to bring out beauty from tragedy. The author’s pen hemorrhaged a legacy of suffering upon a child, while I then, in turn, inflicted it upon myself, spoiling the rhymes into decay.
I stand at the foot of my being; wearing scars slithering into the pigment of my skin, like snakes coiling in death’s throes.
Today, the analogy within the mirror has faded, and the clarity of my features mark its surface. There’s no need to turn away from the new verse whose words are currently formed.
Calligraphy in long graceful passages offers entrance to new possibilities. Tomorrow, I will be the author of my own journey where the ceiling is nothing but a ceiling, and pain, though still present, is no longer a tool to extinguish the past.
Save for the last phrases yet to unfold, this story, seared by my signature, is a record of a once unspoken verse.
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Melissa C. Water