Otto Phokus CC
When I was younger I used to love going out after it had rained to pick up all the worms that had wriggled out of the grass onto the wet pavement. They didn’t belong there and when the sun came back it would dry out their bodies and kill them. I’d pick up anything damp and squiggly and delicately take them all back to the safety of the wet grass. I wasn’t one to put worms in a tupperware box or collect tadpoles in a jar. They belonged in their home. I guess you could call this my saviour complex origin story.
I used to live in constant fear of being asked to dissect a frog in high-school. I had seen it in many an American film and was horrified that one day I would walk into class and see a still-living frog pinned to a metal tray. I took chemistry. Give me pyrotechnics over blood and guts any day.
Years later, after university and in a new country, I’d come to find myself involuntarily signing up for your anatomy class. Not a class so much as an experiment really. I willingly hopped up onto the examination table and let you take a closer look at the female form. For science. You wanted to feel lips, breasts, stomach, you wanted to get a closer look at the labia minora, find the clitoris. Like all good science experiments there had to be one control variable. In this case, alcohol. No kissing, no touching, no fucking unless a sufficient amount of alcohol had been consumed by both parties. I tried to hold your hand in a museum gallery. You swatted it away. Was homosexuality contagious? I could see the fear in your eyes.
You nailed me to the stainless steel tray and took the scalpel and carved me up. Clamps kept me open. Gauze kept the blood inside. My still-beating heart worked to keep the blood pumping as you picked out the bits that pleased you and left the parts that didn’t. You liked the drunk fucking in the bathroom. The late-night kisses in the dark. Those parts you took. But the heart? Fuck that. Leave it in there.
Then you got a boyfriend and suddenly the experiment was over. I had to tug and twist and yank the nails out of my hands and feet. A fucked-up bisexual Jesus, stigmata and ripped open ribcage included. I bandaged myself. I pulled out the clamps and the gauze and the surgical items you left inside me like a game of Operation abandoned in haste when you got bored. I took the needle and surgical string and painstakingly stitched my flesh back together.
We've stayed friends. Best friends even. Every time you date someone a little stitch tears open and I bleed for a while. That’s ok. I don't pick the scabs anymore. Call that progress. Every time I catch myself thinking "what if'' and pulling at my stitches I do my best to stop. I can’t risk opening up more wounds. You didn't mean to cause the harm that you did but every time we get too close and we are both single at the same time, the stitches around my heart get a little looser and I silently beg you to just reach in, just take it. When you are particularly worm-like, out there on the pavement, I feel the urge to pick you up and take you somewhere safe. That rips the stitches wide open. Exasperated, I get the needle and thread back out of the box and add another stitch or two just to hold me in place. It’s become a chore. Not that you’d know. I smile and listen and do everything a good friend does and you never get to see the bloody tapestry of stitches under my clothes.
Kerri MacKenzie is a Scottish lassie living in France. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in cultural studies while teaching at the University of Tours. Her key areas of interest are wistful longing, the sea, Scottish folklore, Glasgow and death. She spends most of her days asking her tarot cards if today is the day she will finally sort her shit out. It never is. She has work forthcoming in Sublunary Review and Gutsluts.
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