I’m sitting on his lap with his arms wrapped around me when I realize two things. I am in love with him and he … is the boy I saw screaming “YO WHERE YOU FROM” to another boy twice his size, in the fluorescent lit hallway of our school.
We are going to College in “Beautiful City.”
The armpit of Eastern Ontario. The ugliest place ever referred to as pretty.
This place is all cement and water that everyone ignores, until they want to drown themselves in it. Maybe over social and cultural poverty — maybe as a way to end their cocaine addiction.
An ending is an ending, reasons are all rather the same.
The dirt of downtown clashes with my college. My school is so clean, everything squeaks like the basketball players’sneakers in the gym.
The gym that smells like chemically induced cleanliness, cancer and sweat, in equal proportions.
I am late for a university information workshop I signed up for. I feel the rush I am in from my feet to my lungs.
As I enter the room my skin prickles from the eyes that fall on me.
The only thing dependable about me is my lateness.
I awkwardly squeeze and slink my way to the only available seat, in the center of the room.
Relief from taking off my backpack, burning of eyes on the back of my neck.
Shit. I can’t find a pen.
A hand reaches into my line of vision. This hand is offering me what I need — a hand, slow-moving and all fingers. The colour of the mocha I drink each morning.
I hear myself saying this and feel myself avoiding his gaze. Why would I be refusing to look at his face?
I am sitting in hot silence. I am learning everything there is to know about applying to university.
Every second of my life feels like destiny, mixed with gross serendipity and sickly déjà vu.
I am returning the pen to this faceless new friend next to me.
I feel myself pretending to look at something to my right, on the floor.
He says nothing.
The room empties, including my body.
The computer lab is where I am sitting. It is all high ceilings and the hum of computers.
The chatter of flirting students is pounding against my inner ear.
This dude I went out with last week is sitting next to me.
He thinks every woman must love him since the muscles on his stomach are well-defined.
I listen to him talking but not to what he is saying. Although I assume it is about how big his basketball scholarship is, or something of the same vein.
He seems totally unfazed by the fact that our date ended with me throwing him across the room.
I’m sure it happens to him often. Maybe that is his thing.
“See you later sexy. I have to go shoot some hoops.”
I am saying nothing.
He’s walking away and I am noticing who is sitting two computers away from me.
His face, unfamiliar and his hands — are all fingers.
He is talking to me now, he has a drawl. I am looking at his face, which is smiling at me.
I think I know these all-finger hands well now. They comfort me. They pat me on the head.
I am well-behaved little pet. So they tell me.
These all-finger hands remind me how small my own are. They define how his hugs feel to me. They touch my face when he tells me all about his break and enters. Smooth hands from a neighbourhood he says would “never welcome me.”
We are rabbits in a shoe box. That is how I feel in this little room, with him. The rest of the world feels huge, something to shy away from.
We ignore the rest of the planet together, in this starless reality that envelops us.
I’m lying next to him. His all-finger hands are defining me, completely.
Our laughs echo in his stall of a room, in the basement of the college residence.
Moonlight pours on top of us through the small window to the left of our bodies, on his bed.
His weight on top of me feels welcomed. He shifts it.
The tips of his fingers run up my bare legs.
I’m so fucking in love with him.
My skin goose-bumps from the clash of our heat and the coolness of the spring night.
“I can’t have sex with you if you haven’t shaved your legs.”
The feeling of all the ways we are connected tearing apart from each other.
My hotness mutating into anger.
Did he really just fucking say that to me?
Our emotionally constructed sanctum suddenly feels like a prison, his weight and love — absolute oppression.
We are exchanging words that don’t feel like they mean anything.
My heart is pumping outrage to every part of me.
“I will be right back” the faceless stranger on top of me is saying.
Walking man, dead to me.
I need to get out of here.
The door closes behind him and in one smooth motion I put on my clothes, pop out the window screen and dive through the tiny metal-edged opening.
I am wriggling myself up, feeling the rush of the spring night’s coolness on my face.
I am running now. My sneakers are pounding against the pavement.
I am running from my oppressor, my love, this social norm conductor.
My blood is coursing through me, to the top of my head all the way down to the tip of my toes.
All I can hear are my racing thoughts, my breath, and him discovering that I’m gone.
The whole world is asleep around me. I can hear his door slamming.
My fine motor control has gone to shit. I struggling to find my keys and hit the unlock button.
I am slamming the car door behind me now, I am ignoring him calling my name.
I find absolute comfort in this forward momentum. I glance in my review mirror. I am laughing as I watch him screaming in my direction.
His long fingers pointing towards the stars.
“YO WHERE YOU GOING?!”’
I can’t stop laughing.
There is a certain kind of delight filling me now.
Fuck it feels good to ignore his phone calls.
I’m never going to talk to him again. Unless it is to text him, “Let me know when you figure out what I stole from your apartment.”
This is a lot for a body with a heart contained inside to come down from but I already feel the most amazing sensations.
Onward velocity, breeze in my hair.
Release from the oppressive power known as love.
Trees. Black. Trees. Darkness. Moonlight. Flashing by me.
The sound of the engine, my inhalations steadying, the tires on the pavement.
I’m not going to give in.
“WHAT THE FUCK.”
What an amusing thing it is to hear yourself scream.
I am pulling over. I am parking the car.
Great, one of my tires has exploded. Ruptured like my heart.
I am sitting in the front seat, staring into the inky world of a thick boreal forest.
I have no idea what to do. This has never happened before. I know how to change a tire in theory but I feel physically and mentally weary from the thought of it.
Jet-black, gravel, cement, something white is floating down the highway.
My feet are carrying me to it.
I am picking up a thin sheet of paper from the street.
It is a page out of “The Bible” — words about the people rebelling against “The Lord.”
What the hell. Does this mean God is smiting me for something?
Perhaps he just has a wicked sense of humour.
Whatever. Either way.
I better call CAA.
The tow-truck is visible in the distance. He must have been circling this area.
The driver is stopping, now hopping down from his truck.
His hair is the colour of grease, his eyes are drowning underneath long white eyebrows.
His hands are rubbing each other as he speaks.
I’m hoping the moonlight doesn’t let him see me.
I pull myself up into the passenger seat. All I can smell is diesel. All I see is the shade of night and the colour of dirt and the feel of it, everywhere, creeping under my skin.
Now we are driving.
He is telling me we should leave my car at Canadian Tire. He is saying he will drive me home and it will cost me, “almost nothing.”
I’m nodding, following his guidance.
We are dropping my car off. We are pulling back out of the empty parking lot.
I’d rather cut my own arm off than engage in small talk for the 15 kms we have to go.
We are driving past the turn off, my turn off.
A heaviness in my throat is reaching down to turn my stomach.
All I can smell is diesel. All I can hear is the engine, his labored breathing and the echo of fear in my head.
I don’t want to know where he is taking me.
Prickling dread is rising through my body, heartbeats pressing against my skin with each spurt.
My fingers fumble for a moment. I unbuckle my seatbelt, lean back and kick him square in the face.
The sole of my shoe pops with connection to his jaw.
His skull smashing against the window makes a noise that vibrates through my spine.
He is pulling over. He looks exactly like the bewildered beast that he is.
I push open the heavy door and give his dazed face the finger.
“Fuck you buddy.”
My hand is pulling my switch-blade from the front of my purse. My thumb is releasing the blade.
My arm is reaching across the cab of his truck and my muscles are plunging the blade to the rock of bone in his right leg.
Stunned men are the easiest to stab.
My ears are listening to him screaming.
Now to myself saying …
“Does that feel good baby?”
I am pulling the blade out of him, listening to the slurp his flesh makes, it almost sounds like a kid drinking a milkshake.
I am laughing and jumping from the truck.
The satisfying crunch of my feet reconnecting with the earth.
His engine roaring him away.
If he wants to bleed-out that is his choice.
Technically I assaulted him I suppose. Better not call the cops.
Now I am walking in the dead of night. There are weird noises coming from the woods, gurgles … from living things.
Something alive in the woods is talking to itself.
Maybe I should start going to church.
The blinding light of halogen bulbs is shocking my pupils.
The gravel is crackling as a blue Toyota pulls over. The window is lowering, revealing a forty-year-old woman, with dark red lipstick leaking from her mouth.
“Are you okay? Do you need a ride?”
I can always kick her in the face if I need to. So I am getting in and shutting the door behind me. It closes with a bang.
14 kms later I am arriving to the house next door, which I told her was mine. My lovely chauffeur has taken the liberty of telling me everything she knows about the rewards of drinking your own urine.
She knows a tremendous amount about this topic.
She is an undeniable well of knowledge when it comes to the health benefits of drinking your own piss.
My feet feel heavy when I first step out of the car.
Finally, I get to lay in my own bed, without him, without any living thing, drenched in moonlight, smoking a joint.
What a fucking day.
Life is so the strangest thing that has ever happened to me.
Scalding water is pouring out of my rusty tap into my mint green bathtub that I rescued from the local garbage dump.
It holds water. It works perfectly. Why would anyone want to get rid of it?
My eyes drift down to the yellow plywood floor. Now up to the ceiling that I painted yellow too, one night I couldn’t sleep.
Sitting in my trash tub, my eyes move to begin staring at my legs.
I’m holding a pink razor in my right hand. Now it is the thing I am staring at.
I have been thinking a lot lately.
If he couldn’t sleep with me unless I shaved my legs, I’m sure other men want or need this too. I don’t love the man with all-finger hands anymore. A couple of good night’s sleep solved that but … if I ever want to be loved, must I give up? Give in? Surrender … certain parts of me at least?
Macabre sacrifices, parts of my body or, at least my control of them — for whoever ends up being my him.
Who is being difficult? Society? Myself? I’m feel like I’m drowning in all of this thought.
I don’t know who decided the hair on a woman’s legs should not be there but most of the women I know shave theirs. They don’t seem to grumble about subjugation and wasted time.
Maybe they like playing the game called “let’s pretend I’m a hairless child.”
Maybe I could find it fun too.
I have seen women on television shave their legs. They dance around on a beach after.
No signs of looming despondency.
“The healthiest way to live is androgynous.”
I can remember my mother saying this to me in the center of her perfect garden.
Mother always had cats, a Scotch terrier and a chicken which followed her everywhere. A brain aneurysm killed her.
My father quickly followed, like her pet chicken used to. Death by heartbreak, grave loneliness consumed him, weakened him to loss of life.
Well, my father is still alive, I guess, technically.
I never see him but every Christmas he sends me a box filled with cash and oranges. So I know he is still roaming this globe somewhere.
I remember him, how he loved my mother and his Pontiac. He would sometimes forget to roll down the window when he spit out his chewing tobacco.
One day, after my mother was gone, I found him in a drunken stupor on the back lawn. I watched him as he cried himself to sleep. I put flowers in his hand and kissed him on the forehead. He had lovely wavy black hair.
My mother’s words ring through my head again.
“The healthiest way to live is androgynous.”
Dead people tend to be right but maybe my expired mother was wrong about this.
Maybe fitting in is the effortless thing to do, the quickest route to satisfaction.
I press the razor to my skin, now I am watching my hand drag it up my skin. From my ankle to where my leg ends and my body begins.
Up my leg, up my leg. This perverted practice has an end in sight.
Happiness and freedom could start by pressing a sharp object against my body.
Shaving is almost like meditation … or maybe more like satanic ritual. Preparing myself for a man, who wants a woman at home to cook him dinner every night … till his liver puffs up and leaks toxins into his abdomen, killing him. Not a day too soon.
My moving limbs swish the cooling water around in my garbage dump mint green tub.
I’m listening to the animals outside my window, the splash of water moved by my limbs, the sound the razor makes as it strips the hair from my figure.
One last swipe needs to be made, up the center of my left leg.
I am pressing down on the razor now with some conviction, pressing, dragging, towards my knee.
Maybe conforming never killed anybody but it has surely made some lifelong scars. Not the kind to brag about but the kind you hide away.
I’m listening to myself scream now, feeling a nauseating sting, watching the water turn red against the green.
Here’s hoping my dump tub doesn’t have hepatitis or paralyzing tetanus.
With each gush from my myocardium the water turns a more brilliant shade of crimson.
Fuck. I feel light-headed.
I’m looking down at my flesh now. A chunk the size of a banana slug is gone, bleeding out.
I am standing, almost falling, reaching for a towel. My body is consumed with a heavy hotness.
Slumping in a ball, I press the towel against the bolt of red on my leg.
I crave the smell of disinfectant, my lingering strength is letting me scooch my way to the cupboard to collect it.
I am cleaning and bandaging my wound. The smell of Dettol fills the room and offers me comfort.
My leg is bandaged and all the air I have trapped in my lungs is finally being released.
I’m sure my first time shaving could have gone worse … right?
Sometimes my phone still rings and tells me it is him. I will never speak to him again. Why? Because it feels good.
My left shin still has a dressing on it, blood soaked through it. I don’t dare look at what is under it.
Hairless life is reaping few benefits, as far as I can tell.
The banana slug sized wound feels like it is growing.
I touch the bandage and it says *squish* under my finger tips. I feel the noise inside of me. I feel it in the nape of my neck and brain stem the most.
Sometimes when I lay awake at night I swear I can feel something move under the bloodied gauze, without my touch or movement.
I am here. Awake with moonlight pouring all over my face, trying to ignore the undeniable feeling that I am sharing my body with some new entity, something tickling me, nagging me, slithering inside of me.
Remind me to look under the gauze tomorrow.
My mint tub feels chilling on my skin. I need to sit though and I need to clean this rotten wound. Everything I need is to the left of my feet on the yellow plywood floor.
The moment I disconnect the compress from my skin I hear a plop of something meeting the floor. A chill is running through where I assume my spleen is.
A mound of pale green pudding, biological not pistachio, putrid and not edible, almost the same colour as my bathtub, this mound of human waste sits staring up at me.
This disgusting thing came out of my body. Grew in it, fell from it.
A quick look at my leg instantly introduces the feelings of dizzy, light-headed and horrified to my entire being.
The slug shaped wound is all tissue and pus, red, white, green, yellow — all with coarse black hair growing up through it.
I breathe in and pour the Dettol over my open flesh — comfort, disinfectant comfort, sick, sweet, stinging comfort that only a clean chemical burn can offer.
I have felt my wound slowly heal. It has been drying up, becoming a scar and cautionary tale.
Yet, I still lay awake at night. The black dog of fear comes sniffing around.
Right now, in this moment I can feel something else in the room with me, the presence of something alive with desire and intention.
Something is alive inside of what I have always thought of as MY body.
A tickle in my right leg, nags me in the silence of this night. I hear no animals outside, only scattered fretful thoughts in my head.
There is a twinge, an uneasy feeling, running down my leg, underneath my skin, easy to ignore in the fast pace of sunshine, impossible to bear in the lifeless moonlight.
My skin is now the proud owner of a banana slug sized scar, and nothing else, my thoughts are still coated with fear and unease.
Other than a hard red bump on my right thigh and the unsettling, never-ending itch growing from it … I guess I’m fine. Ingrown hairs, razor burn, one of these must be to blame and nothing more.
Once a friend of mine had a terrible ingrown hair, she would pick at it, scratching her leg as she talked to you.
Her doctor ended up having to cut it out of her to release it.
When the doctor took the scalpel to her skin she remembers hearing him say …
“Oops, we nicked a bleeder.”
She only mentioned it once but sometimes I would see a spot of blood soak into the leg of her pants. I tried not to wonder why.
I’m thinking about her, the pain of gender performance and the bite of conformity in the name of anything.
I can feel the moonlight on my face, tumbling from the long, thin window, vast, above my head.
I have gotten used to the presence in my body that comes to life at night, used to the black dog of fear sniffing circles around me.
I feel something so undeniably wretched and real, wriggle inside my right leg, from my thigh to the bone of my baby toe.
My mouth is crying and echoing through the corners of my room, bubbling in my skeleton, bouncing around my ribcage, trapped inside of me.
Just like this thing.
I don’t even care about him anymore, I don’t care about love, I don’t care about body hair. Yet here I sit alone in the pitch-black with scars from all three.
Rage rushes to my face. My feet are carrying me to the bathroom with its yellow floors and mint green tub.
My hot blushing fist pounds the light on, my fingers fumble with my pajama bottoms.
I’m ready to face what has decided to make my body a habitat. How dare it make my figure its home. I know the red bump, on my right leg, is its doorway.
I see the scarlet spot on my skin clearly in the unnatural light of the bathroom. My back is against the tub. My legs stretch on the lemony floor.
I’m scratching and picking at the spot. I’m listening to myself whine and cry.
I tear away the top layer of my skin. I can see a hair, the poor vile thing that has been growing inside me. Trapped this whole time, looking for a way out. Looking for sunshine, growing through the depths of me.
My fingers are pulling, tugging and picking away at this piece of shadowy thing buried in my skin. I feel it moving, pulling at a nerve as I struggle to break it free.
The nails of my thumb and pointer finger have the hair, pinched. I start to pull and hear myself scream uncontrollably.
Pulling up, into the eerie fake light of the room, pulling up, and feeling like this will never end.
I can feel its entirety now. I feel it unwrapping itself from my pinky toe as I pull. I am feeling it moving past my tissue, my shin bone, my kneecap, my thigh muscle. Sliding through the tiny tunnel it dug for itself.
I am pulling upwards, never able to reach high enough to end this bloody mess.
Puss flows through the hole on my right thigh, the doorway to the tingling feeling.
I can feel where the end is now, the tip of this hair recoiled inside of me; I am pulling and crying out.
The strangest noise pings in my ears as I rip the end of the hair from my trembling body.
Blood under my finger nails, plops of infection riddle the floor. The hair, sits coiled like a snake on the sunshine coloured floor.
A wave of incredible horror and disgust is waving through me, heating up my face, shaking my hands, shivering my flesh.
This hair was possessed by the rottenness of my motives for trying to banish it from my body.
Maybe this hair felt safe from my gutlessness, wrapped around the bone of my toe. I guess I can understand that. Maybe it knew I was modifying myself for the wrong reasons — to please someone else.
My hands are lifting the hair delicately as to not disrupt the nest it has created.
Did I put it like that?
I gently place it in my waste basket. If I’m not mistaken what I feel now is the pang of separation, the prickling loneliness of being without what had become a part of me.
This hair, wanted to be with me. More than the one who asked me to banish it. This hair nestled in through my muscle and around my bones.
I feel heavy sadness in my chest but for the first time in months I know I will sleep soundly. Feeling at ease and alone in the moonlight again, nothing wriggling inside of myself.
The summer has flashed by like bats across the moon.
College is a distant memory and my boxes are packed for university. I’m leaving Beautiful City, its cement, dust and industrial district, its body-ridden waterways and scattered unkempt downtown streets.
I’m leaving for Peterborough, Ontario. I hear people sit at the edge of the water there and on perfect days you can smell maple syrup in the air.
I hope I don’t fall in love there, or, if I do, I hope I don’t lose myself, dilute myself, or turn inwards, like that nightmare of a hair I never told anyone about.
My boxes are unpacked. I am lying on my bed, staring up at the uneven beach white ceiling … now at my walls, the colour of Jamaican seas.
I hear footsteps coming down to my room in the basement. Last night I thought I heard something crawling down the stairs but I’m sure that was just my imagination.
I wonder if my tiny cellar window will ever allow me to see the moon.
My new roommate knocks and enters my turquoise room.
The light on my ceiling is illuminating the scar on her face from a staph infected boil she had lanced with a dirty instrument. She is still beautiful, with dark blue eyes and dark brown hair.
“Do you want to come upstairs to eat with me? I made too much food.”
She is shuffling her feet back and forth.
“Yes, I’m super hungry, thanks!”
I had not realized this was the truth till I heard myself say it.
We exchange meaningless words and I follow her, staring at her short hair, as I trail her up the stairs.
I feel the temperature rise with each step upwards.
My eyes are falling on the plate she has already made me. She is pouring herself a glass of milk.
I don’t know how she can drink so much of that white pus and blood.
She exhales and says we should sit on the patio while we eat.
She pours herself another glass and we both grab our plates.
Our bodies walk into the sunlight.
We sit down at the old metal and glass patio set. I catch glimpses of all the colours it has been.
The world is filled with that magical heat of fall, warmth thick with the awareness of how long it won’t last.
We are sitting in silence, shoving food in our mouths. I sputter as she points to our neighbour across the street. He is watering his lawn in jean cutoffs.
Our giggles surely carry such a short distance.
This does not stop our laughter. He is pretending not to look.
I shove the hot pasta into my mouth, with hopes of shutting myself up.
“EEEWWWWW, WHAT THE FUCK?!”
I am listening to her scream as the world spins around me. I feel something, tickling the inside of my guts, fraught with tension in my throat, stuck between my teeth.
My fingers pinch the culprit. My pointer finger and my thumb, have something. A hair, stuck between my two front teeth. I am tugging, pulling and filling up with dread.
I can feel the heat of the sun on my skin, the cool breeze running over it. I can hear my new roommate’s slow breathing, the sound of a hose shooting water on the neighbour’s lawn.
Everything is burning with brightness, whirling around me.
I am yanking the hair from my mouth. My arm reaches towards the sun; I am pulling, again, and again. I feel the hair resisting; I feel my strength ripping it from the pyloric valve below my stomach. I feel the hair tickling up my esophagus, across my tongue and through my teeth.
Every heartbeat is rushing to my face, my fingers are trembling. I’m listening to my roommate screaming. The hair is coiling on my lap like a well-behaved snake.
Now I feel the end of it leaving my mouth and joining itself on my lap. Round and round, it has become a bird’s-nest-sized pile.
Five minutes could have passed, slow, like a lumbering dying animal.
The sun is blinding me now; I can’t see anything and suddenly hear everything.
I’m listening to my roommate cry — sobs of terror and confusion. I’m listening to the sounds of the city far off in the distance and to my neighbour’s hose spilling water onto the hot pavement just across the street.
Water is flowing everywhere, crawling towards us … and I can feel the man with the jean cutoffs, staring at me.