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Skin Junkie

Angela Spinzig


I’m a perfectionist who self-harms.
I line up my cuts in neat rows, perforate my arm as if it were a page 
in one of those intricate adult-therapy coloring books.  

I stay inside the lines, but use only red:
The blush of embarrassment. The heat of shame. The flush of exhaustion and relief. 

These lines aren’t powder, but they bring a similar high. Lift me out of my head
and force me to focus on the present—wounds to tend with stinging alcohol, gauze, and paper tape.
Evidence to hide—spent dressings buried in a trash can or flushed in clog-avoidant intervals.
Knives to wipe clean and return to their kitchen block—tucked in their wooden beds to dream of slicing 
the flesh of fruit rather than the flesh of my wrists. 

Sometimes, I fantasize about throwing out every blade in my house—an addict removing the temptation—
emptying the kitchen drawers, paying extra for pre-sliced veggies, spreading butter on my toast with spoons. 

There are no commemorative coins for getting clean from this addiction. 
No anonymous meetings with burnt coffee and stale pastries that set too long for the sober to eat. 

I have no sponsors to call when the blade hovers over my skin. No one cheers when I resist for a month. A year. 
There are no milestones. No anniversaries. Only sharp edges, blood, and fresh-pink scars I explain away 
as paper cuts or gardening mishaps. 

My seven-year-old niece asks about the scars—how I got these marks all lined up in a row. 
How can I tell her that I have tried to see what lives beneath my skin? 
That sometimes I need proof anything lives there at all? 
That sometimes there are thoughts in my head that are so heavy, they break like the bough of a tree 
and the cradle that held me together falls to the ground? 

How could I look at this innocent of hair bows and stuffed-animal best friends,
who gives me homemade cards and painted seashells, 
and show her that to keep the monster inside me in its closet, I feed it with my own blood?

I cannot tell her that sometimes when there are no knives, I use my fingernails to dig beneath my skin,
convinced that if I can claw my way deep enough, I could find the heart of it all, the answer to all the questions. 

Instead, I say sometimes grownups get hurt and the marks don’t go away, make a half-hearted joke about being clumsy. 
The ocean-blue of her eyes storms over with concern, but her little sister pulls her into a game and she forgets. 

Before they leave, all pink tennis shoes and matching braids, she hugs me again, tells me she loves me, 
and presses a seashell into my palm that feels an awful lot like a commemorative coin. 


Angela Spinzig (she/her) lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her wife, Randi, and their two dogs, Houdini and Albert. She holds a Masters in Professional Writing from Southeast Missouri State University and has a day job as an Instructional Designer. This is her first publication.


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