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Today my fingers bled (it's my fault)

Today my fingers bled (it's my fault)

The blood was the same blood it always was, but the source was conspicuous enough for me to take notice. Seeing what I'm ''supposed to feel'' to be my very essence, drained in a new fashion, triggered only the slightest reaction. It wasn't the reaction itself, but its minute scale which drew my conscious attention. Do other animals react to the sight of blood? Does it matters whose?

I can't remember my nails ever not being surrounded by ripped up flesh, even though I remember when and why I started gnawing on myself. A vague appearance-based embarrassment had its time, but in private I was unconcerned. I'd never encountered the idea of a body— particularly mine— retaining any sanctity. You were a baby, then you weren't. Probably I did, with all the hysteria about pedophiles while the internet grew up around me, but I managed to say the right words at the right times, and for that I earned isolation's outgrowths. I earned my faulty memory, voids I'll never fill with joys I'll only ever know secondhand. Sometimes I try and be happy for the creature which became me, grateful that they got to live those moments I only get to hear of; but mostly I seethe, if not in jealousy then in hate, boiling in the lone memory I seem able to revisit intentionally, an inky void of a long-lost bedroom given color by eyes shut so tight it hurt, since crying would be a distraction from the work I felt I needed to do, desperately willing my mind to deteriorate, wishing the shackles which bound me to my experience to dissolve, hoping whatever character I'd become to forgive me for my self-obliteration. Steel wool through warm butter. Saturn's filicide was an act of terror.

But I was used to the iron-tasting black grime of my dried essence which pooled in the divots of my nail's gored-out perimeter, enjoyed its salt most after it dried but before it turned sticky and got dirty. I'd somehow begun to bleed from the tips of my fingers— it was the inconvenience which alerted me to my novel tributary. I sucked like you suck anything, I guess, my popsicle-teat causing my spine's base to relax, soften, chemically whittling me in the same ways new drugs or new loves had every few years, each one insisting that they're different because they know that's what I crave and yet this is the only one I've returned to, the only one I've never rejected.
But now I taste like shit. I wash my hands and still—

I liked the taste of blood of at least two people, my own and the neighbor girl's, which I'd licked when she'd skinned her knee. We were small so it was just funny. I had been curious whether hers would do for me what mine did for me, but had been disappointed. The fact that it's my own person I eat, I realized, that's what soothes.

— Shit. I point at myself and, watching the droplet hang, avoid the skin of my finger with its sweat and oils and just barely touch my tongue to the droplet and still—

When I am myself I think I think crudely; I hope I am crude now: What I learned from the neighbor girl was true, but the story wasn't. Never had a neighbor girl, but do have some sense of licking a skinned knee. I'm hoping the lesson is what matters.

— Worse. I point up and trace my spiral fingerprints with my eyes, and blink back to an easy day spent on a sun-warmed grey faux leather couch beside a bay window which framed a long-lost out of focus backyard, which framed an upturned finger I held before my eyes, studying the swirls on my fingers and wondering if I would ever look at them and be unsurprised. I hoped not.