He grabs my tiny wrists and I wince.
His eyes are still blue and I am reminded of the intimidating blue flame of the blowtorch he’d use to light my cigarettes, a last resort when I’d run out of matches. That blue flame was bewitching, almost translucent like imperfect ice, making you want to touch it, to dance your fingers through it to see if it burns you even though you know that it will.
I hear the coquettish shriek I’d make as he brought the flame close to my face. I was always scared he’d accidentally set my hair on fire. Now, as he brings the twin flames of his blowtorch eyes close to my face, I want to scream. I am scared that he’ll accidentally set my world on fire, the world I’d painstakingly built for myself in his absence, my brave new world, a world without him in it.
He slowly peels his fingers from my tissue paper skin and holds my forearms in his palms, turning them over, inspecting them. My hands are trembling but he doesn’t need to mention this because he knows me.
The welts are raised and range from the faintest candyfloss pink to an aggressive merlot colour.
They are all of equal width but the lines fly at odd angles from the base of my palm up towards my elbow.
Clusters of purple dots stain my skin like dappled sunlight, and the bones of my wrists are green and grey.
“I knew it,” he says, and abruptly drops my arms.
I drag my sleeves down over my knuckles. I stare down at the ugly carpet. I don’t say anything.
I don’t want to speak to him about why I still hurt myself and why I’m still sad and why I can’t cope. I don’t want him to be worried about me. I don’t want him to remember that I am a mess.
And I don’t want to hear his misplaced optimism, “Well, snapping an elastic band is better than slashing with a razor blade,” and “At least rubber bands won’t leave a scar…” and I don’t want his pity or his fucking sympathy. I want his attention but not like this.
I can’t even look at him. I don’t want him to think that I’m not okay without him.
My pain is none of his business anymore. Even if he’s the sole cause of it.
A smile shatters his face and he reaches for his beer.
“I knew it. I knew you’d let other guys tie you up.”
“Your wrists. Rope burns. You naughty girl.”
I say nothing. He drains his dregs and jumps off the bar stool.
“Right, I’m offski. See you later.”
He winks at me and disappears.
“Prick,” I mutter under my breath, and leave through the emergency exit.
Offski. I always hated that.