Cigarette Burns

This is my first post on this new blog. I want to start by sharing a free story, which appears below. Before reading it, though, you may check out those tabs up above to learn a little about who I am.

Cigarette Burns
by
Nathan Tyree

The problem with punching yourself is that you instinctively hold back. Even if you don’t want to, you pull the punch. Your hand just will not hit your own face with the same force it reserves for the faces of others. This is a real problem. After awhile I gave up the hitting. For a time I toyed around with cutting myself. Apparently this is some sort of fad. Teenage girls compete to see who can inflict the most damage on their own arms.

Cutting, however, has a down side. It’s messy. Even a slight slice oozes blood. You have to bandage it right away. Then you must clean up the stray drops that have found their way onto the furniture. Then, days later you can accidentally re-open the wound, and you have more cleaning to do.

Cigarettes are better. The first time you touch a lit cigarette to your arm, you have to do it quickly. You will find that you pull away automatically. Still, it works well. The pain is searing. Intense. The skin melts. Even after the cherry red ash is pulled away, the pain remains. The blister rises immediately. Then, after it pops, a hole forms in your arm. It takes weeks to heal. The burn creates a lovely scar, which serves to remind you that you are still alive. Sort of.

With practice you can hold the heat against your skin longer. Do it slowly. It hurts more this way. It’s best to drag the process out. Pain brings a rush of endorphins. It snaps you back to life.

I was busy working on the cigarette trick. She was already half way out the door. It comes quickly. The darkness. The need. The hunger. She was talking, but I wasn’t listening. I had shut her out. It was better that way.

Standing in the bedroom door, her eyes sparkling with anger, cool, soft light streaming around her like some diaphanous corona, she looked unreal. She looked like some sort of fairy tale princess. Just a little goose girl, about to alight from her place, and fly away. She was really very beautiful. But I couldn’t see it. Not then.

I was shrouded by the darkness of the bedroom. Hunched on the floor. She couldn’t see what I was doing. She didn’t know. That was best. If she knew I was hurting myself, she’d try to make me stop. I couldn’t stop yet. It didn’t hurt enough yet. I had burned a hole deep in my forearm, and decided to work on another spot.
“Are you listening to me?”

I wasn’t. I couldn’t. Everything about her was bringing me misery. I  couldn’t smell her hair from where I was, but I knew how it would smell. Like violets. Depression doesn’t hurt. Cigarette burns hurt.

“I’m trying to explain. Listen to me”.

“No.”

“Will you please listen?”

“Why?”

Depression feels like nothing. That’s the part no one understands. It is deep, black, nothing. You feel dead. Empty. There really isn’t a metaphor that can do it justice. Pain is better. Anything is better. Drugs, sex, self mutilation, these are all just ways to stave off the hollow, rotting flesh, empty, dead skin sack feeling that drains all the color from the world.

“Damn it. John, I love you. I’m sorry. I just want to explain what happened”.

Suicide is not a real option. Death just seems like more of the same nothingness. Agony, now that is an improvement.

For a time I played with the idea of cutting off my own fingers. But eventually I’d run out of digits, then where would I be? I’d have to find something else to excise, and who knows where it would all end.

She turned. She had given up on getting me to understand. She was leaving. This was final. Gone. I didn’t want her to go. But, I couldn’t work my mouth to tell her to stay. I really fail in this area.

So, as she made her final exit stage right, I lit another cigarette, and went to work on the other arm.

This story has appeared in The Coffee Faucet and Dogmatika.

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