(Content Warning – reference to self harm)
I want to set up some similarities and contrasts in this story, which is part of a greater whole. Parents and their children, blood and what it means, cuts and hurt, brother and sister. Bonds, promises and secrets. Does it work?
When Dad cut himself shaving he couldn’t believe it. He’d positioned his shaving mirror carefully and put a new Gillette blade in his razor. He’d even shown me how to hold it. He’d been humming “I got plenty of nothing” as he lifted his nose out of the blade’s path, pulled the flesh tight on his cheeks and lifted his chin to reveal the vulnerable Adam’s apple where he scraped with great care. So, when crimson stained his chin he made a right song and dance about it.
“Give us a corner of that paper.” He stuck a shred on the nick.
“That won’t do much good.” Mum held his face in her two hands. “Let’s kiss it better. That’ll keep it in.”
“Gerroff.” Dad smiled but held her away. “Where’s the styptic pencil?”
“The what? Just spit on it. That’ll clean it as well as staunching it. You don’t want it all to run out.”
Well, Dad really danced around after he slapped the after shave on. Mum told him not to be so soft.
“Anybody’d think you’d chopped the end of your finger off.” She held up her left hand to remind us of what had happened to her when she worked at Chappell’s. “You’re not going to bleed to death.”
Later, Mum and Dad were concerned that you spent so much time on your own. Dad thought you were getting like the cat – one minute snuggling up to you and purring, the next out the door and god knows where. Mum said it was just a phase.
I heard the click-clack of your feet on the stairs. I knew that you shouldn’t have come home, that you were either poorly or you were wagging it. You could have been poorly. But when I heard that choir sing “You can’t always get what you want” I knew you were wagging it. Well, I thought, it’s no hanging matter. But you ramped up the volume and I couldn’t concentrate.
And you spun round when I opened the door, your eyes wide open, your mouth an ‘O’. Then my eyes took in your white leg, the line of blood, the flat blade. Your hands shook. Perhaps I spoke your name. “Stop it,” I said. I know I told you to stop. And you said that it eased you and ceased the pain. Helped to get it out. You leaned on me then and I held you and we both cried, our tears mingled, fell on the wound we could see and the ones that were invisible.
And you said, “One day ….”
And I said, “One day ….”
Then we both said, “One day, we’ll get him.”
I pierced my left palm, watched the crimson bead then pressed it against the cut you had made.