The feeling that precedes it is a quiet panic: the sense that she is not feeling enough, or feeling too much the wrong way.
Safety pins and tacks do the job sometimes. The marks they leave are an irritated red. They heal like cat scratches, but too straight to fit the lie. It takes a lot of pressure to draw blood.
Sometimes, she can stave off the urge with the drag of her thumbnail down her forearm, or the center of her throat. This leaves a mark, too, but it’s faint enough that people don’t ask.
Sometimes other people’s bodies will do the job. His fingers are clumsy, floundering. She wakes up in a panic the next morning when she remembers what she’s done but not what his name is. She regains the knowledge via text from a friend: Hudson, like the Bay.
His fingers are slick when he enters her. He puts them in his mouth and sucks on them first, maintaining eye contact the entire time. His fingers jab into her in the general direction of where they both assume her g-spot is. They are rigid and insistent, maintaining the ruthless pace of a second-hand jackhammer.
Metal is different. When she uses scissors — knives and razors seem too dangerous — she expects to see the flesh part red and wet, revealing complex patterns inside, like a pomegranate, or the little teardrops inside an orange slice.
(She looks them up later: they are called vesicles. She repeats the word to herself: vesicles.)
Instead, there is just blood. Not a lot of blood. She thinks there are some major veins on the inside of your thighs or something; she keeps this in mind when she drags the scissor blade over the muscle there, flinching. The metal is not the problem: it is her own wavering grip, too afraid to push too deep, of blooming more pain than she’s bargained for. She knows people have cut through muscles down to the bone. She knows people who have ended up in the hospital for it. She knows she is supposed to feel comforted that she’s not part of this dysfunctional elite, but mostly the knowledge makes her feel like she’s not trying hard enough.
She tries to keep them even in length and depth. They never are. The blood pools in straight lines. She wipes it away; it blossoms again, a thin line interrupted by sluggish beads, a delicate filament made of nothing but her.
When she was little, she always ran her baths too hot. She would sit on the edge, naked flesh pricked with goosebumps, running cold water in and stirring it, flinching at the hot current that made her hand flush. She acclimatized to heat in increments, trained herself over time to embrace water that makes her feel raw all over, makes her body breathe plumes of steam when she rises.