Under My Skin
by, Melissa R. Mendelson
Red lines crisscrossed, telling the story of my life. Black and blue were the kisses of bullies, of the one, who cut me deep. Anger scratched and tore, opening skin. Tears traced lips, lips that drank the pain in, so nobody would see the hurt burning inside. And a bandage tried to soothe the wounds screaming, but nothing could calm the rage of youth. High school was war, and you were either the warrior. Or you were the target.
“Stop scratching.” The school nurse pressed the bandage down, hard. “You’ll keep bleeding.” Scotch tape. She used scotch tape to keep the damn thing on my arm. “You’ll probably need stitches.” Her tone betrayed no emotion, but I didn’t care. I just wanted my mother to come and get me, and as I thought that, I scratched away. “Stop scratching.” She grabbed my hand. “Dessy, you’ll get infected.”
“Okay.” I pulled my hand away from her. “This isn’t my fault.” The nurse moved away from me. “I didn’t start this.”
“Just stop scratching.” Her high heels bounced off the tiled floor. “You don’t want an infection on top of that nasty cut.”
Infection? It was too late. I was already infected. I should be hysterical. If I was crying profusely, the nurse would take pity on me. My teacher would not look at me with suspicion, and I could break his heart. But I wasn’t sad. I was angry, but part of me was happy. It felt good returning the favor, but how could I think that? How could I do what I did? I didn’t want that part of me. I wanted it out, so I scratched. I scratched, hoping to rid myself of that piece that somehow found its way into my heart.
“Dessy.” My teacher’s sharp tone broke me from my thoughts. “Stop scratching.” He looked up at someone, and I thought for a moment that it was my mother. But it was the cops instead. “We should talk outside.”
“She deserved it,” I yelled at him, but my words made him move further away, out of hearing distance. “Stupid bitch. I hope that she doesn’t survive.”
Why did I feel like this? She could die. I never knew who she was until today. It was time for study hall, and I took my seat in the back like usual. She sat next to me. We didn’t say one word to each other. We said nothing, and then all of a sudden, she pulled out a box cutter. And she tore my flesh open with one quick swipe, and I should’ve screamed. I should’ve howled like I was in pain, but I laughed. I laughed like a crazy person, and I ripped that blade from her hand. And I cut her throat.
When I realized what I did, I dropped the box cutter to the floor. I watched her grab her throat with blood gushing through her fingers. Tears raced down her pink cheeks, and she choked over the word, “Why?” Are you kidding me?
Why? Why did she attack me? I didn’t do anything to her. I didn’t say anything. I never knew her. We were never friends or enemies, but I later heard that one of my bullies did put her up to it. Well, if he’s not careful, then he could be next. Again, where are these thoughts coming from? This is not me. Something has gotten under my skin, and I needed to get it out. So, I scratched, and I’m still scratching, tearing at my bandage. And I’m bleeding.
“Dessy!” My mother was here, but the cops held her back. “Stop!” I stopped. I wanted to go home. I would promise to come back tomorrow like nothing ever happened. I would be a good girl, but why did I want to be so bad? I almost laughed, but the look on my mother’s face froze me solid. “Stop.” She slowly turned away from me. “I’m sorry, but my daughter is a good girl. She would never do a thing like that. She was defending herself.”
“I admit that Dessy has had no conflicts such as this, but… She cut the girl’s throat.” My teacher was a traitor, and hatred flared up like my open wound. I wanted to slam my chair against his back, but he was always good to me. Why would he betray me now? “You should get her to a doctor before her wound becomes infected.”
“I’m already infected,” I screamed at them, and now everyone was looking at me. “Don’t you get it? This is war, and she attacked me. What was I supposed to do?” My mother now hurried toward me. “I could’ve killed her.” My mother froze in her steps. “That would be wrong of me, wouldn’t it? Maybe she deserved it. Maybe next time, she won’t be so lucky.”
“Dessy,” my mother hissed. “Stop talking.” She pulled me out of my seat. “And stop scratching.”
“It’s too late, mom.”
“What? What is too late?”
“I’m already infected.”
I couldn’t stop myself. I laughed. I laughed so hard that my sides nearly split. My arm screamed, and I laughed. Soft droplets of blood pounded the floor, and they were the tears of mine unshed. And I was happy. I could feel that part of me getting stronger, feeding off my anger, and I knew that when I do come back, the war would be different. I would no longer be the prey. They drew first blood, but if they dared to attack me again, it would be their blood that I would shed. And I hungered for a fight, but I was never one to fight. The old me was gone. This piece has now wrapped tightly around my heart.
I remembered watching the girl being rushed outside by the paramedics. I remembered standing there, holding my arm. My teacher tried to pull me away, but I wanted to watch her. Watching her gave me strength, washing away the torment of bullies, and all these years, I suffered. I was willing to suffer until graduation, but they couldn’t wait. They wanted me gone because I was not one of them, and they hunted me. But I would not hunt them. I would not surrender either. If they dared to do this again, then they would lose. The war would be over, but such was life in high school. And I stopped scratching, no longer desperate to remove that new piece of me.