a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
[Content warning: rape and abuse]
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The water plops against the side of the bathtub again and again and again until the noise is nothing but an absent, muffled droning in my ear. The silence in my sauna seemed to strip my clothes away before I did, luring me into this tub where my tears can disintegrate into nothingness. Mere additions to a larger homologous model in which I can sink and burn and dissolve.
My body is as revolting a sight as ever and I can't help but wish it'd die alongside the proof I'm burning away.
I guess it makes sense that I've always hated baths. Hot baths in particular.
When I was a baby, my mother used to joke that I was like a cat in that sense. She’d try and gently lay me in the tub, making sure I was safely afloat, and within milliseconds I’d be shrieking myself bright red. I didn't learn to swim until I was eight, despite the multiple lessons and pool parties I attended growing up. Other than that, though, she says I was the easiest child out of the five of us. I doubt the same still holds.
I still hate hot baths. When I'm drenched in sweat and I smell like shit, the last thing I need is to counter-productively cover myself in heat and sweat myself out even more.
But right here, right now, I welcome the sweat. It’s not like it'll make me any grosser, and the burning is painful enough to distract me momentarily, but not painful enough for me to forget why I’m here in the first place. It's perfect.
Maybe if I'm lucky I'll pass out and drown.
The steam that surrounds me makes me feel like a ghost. The silliness of the thought makes me smile a bit (a crooked, reluctant thing, but a smile nonetheless) as my back slips slightly farther down the tub. I can feel it wafting along my arms and head, the only parts of my body that aren't currently submerged, and the feeling sends an addictive chill down my spine. To feel the cleanliness and purity of a white gas coating my skin is what I imagine an orgasm to feel like. To feel it effortlessly gliding across, not deterred by any of the dirt dirt dirt that's clung to me for years is the apex of pleasure. I don't end up passing out from the heat. It's unfortunate, though the alternative isn't too bad. Not at first.
I emerge from the tub and wrap myself in a fluffy white towel, feeling as fresh, dainty, and pure as a newborn, as if the water has baptized me and turned me into someone new. My skin, now a light bubblegum pink, has me clenching my teeth every time it grazes any surface. I wonder if I've burned off my epidermis in places. The thought fills me to the brim with a numb glee I've only felt when I've done this in the past, making my eyes light up for a split second.
I mindlessly dry myself off, dress myself, and condition my hair. My eyes have dimmed. I can see it in the mirror. My face is suddenly paler than usual and the bags under my eyes are more pronounced. Strangely enough, I feel nothing to accompany my appearance. My hands shake and my stomach churns, but my amygdala remains completely unstimulated. My eyes are empty yet somehow, somehow they still dread what’s to come. Cleaning only has so much longevity.
After putting on my clothes and practicing some expressions in the mirror, I walk back out and plop myself onto the bed. His bed.
“Took you long enough,” He huffs, staring at his phone.
“It was only, what, fifteen minutes?” I hate how quiet my voice is.
“Watch your goddamn tone.” He abruptly grabs my wrist and slaps me across the face, leaving an absent, familiar stinging on my cheek. “Stop being so difficult, yeah? You forget that you’re lucky I’m even dating you.”
No, I’m not, The voice in my head says numbly. “Yeah, I know. Sorry.”
“You’re lucky anyone’s dealing with your sorry ass,” He continues, still staring at his phone. You’d think he’d at least care enough to look at me when he does this.
“I have to walk on eggshells every time I talk to you just to make sure I don’t-” he holds up his fingers in the air-quotes position. “-’trigger’ you. It’s a nightmare.”
“I was raped, Andrew,” I try to sound brave, but my voice falters at the word. “I was ten.” He shakes his head dismissively, letting out a sarcastic, bitter laugh.
“It was four fucking years ago. Get over it already.”
The rest of the conversation is a blur, though we’ve had it so many times it doesn't have to be clear. We both already know how it ends.
Hours later, when I’ve left his house and ended up in my own, I stare into the mirror in my room. I don’t blink. I just stare. And I stare. And I stare. The concealer I’ve put over my eye does the desired trick, but I hate the way it clings to my skin. It’s dirt dirt dirt and I can’t help but fantasize about clawing my whole eyeball out. I quickly grab some makeup remover off my desk and frantically scrub it off, not even caring about how it makes the shiner ache and how it makes the skin chafe and burn. When I’m done, I’m left to face a fresh, dark purple circle planted on my eye. I cry for the first time in months at the sight, my robotic catatonia suddenly cracking open. Heavy, painful sobs rip through my body as my shoulders shake and my face falls into the palms of my hands. Dirt dirt dirt. Dirt dirt dirt. Dirt. Dirt. Dirt.
It never leaves.
Cleanliness is a virtue I guess my skin will never truly possess, not anymore.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.