‘I want to see you’, he said.
She started with her hair. Pulling out the band with fingers that shook slightly at the thought of what she was on the verge of doing. She pulled out the thin band of elastic and wrapped it around her right wrist, the yellow lines stark against her wheatish skin. The bones on her wrist poked through the double bind, highlighting the fragile structure of her arms. The fragility was quite at odds with her hands. They were, calloused hands, with no softness cushioning the lines that seemed etched into her palms with a harshness that belied her delicate fingers. Chipped nails, put black nail paint that told stories of nervous tics and shaking hands.
Her hands shook even then, as they travelled down her sides, tracing her slight curves and counting the freckles only she knew the positions of. She traced them mentally, drawing constellations onto her skin, backstories that made her realize just how disinteresting she was. She had to create her universes to live through because hers wasn’t vast enough for all the living she had to do. The list of names in her head slowly faded as the music took over, the deep bass and overwhelming synth gave her a rhythm to sway to, one to get lost into. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and continued. Her fingers found the edge of her slightly frayed top. It rose slightly every time she put her hands up in the air, and she never really stopped doing that, smiling as she felt a lash of cool air that felt like a taboo against innocuous skin.
But this time, as she raised her hands, the hem of her top was grasped in them. She tugged softly, feeling the gooseflesh trail the fabric as it rose higher, till it reached her face. For a moment, she panicked. She couldn’t see the face in front of her. She couldn’t see reaction. Suddenly, there was no meaning to this entire exercise. She pulled harder, stumbling slightly, till the soft, worn fabric was discarded onto the ground and she struggled against instinct. It took physical effort not to wrap her hands around her middle, but she dug her nails into her palms, leaving crescent imprints behind. She shook harder as she took another deep breath to calm herself down, her smile faltering under the pair of eyes on her.
She traced her sides again, the soft, pallid skin a marked contrast to the dry, warm fabric that covered it earlier. She didn’t have goose bumps anymore, but she still felt uncomfortable in her own skin. Her fingers found their way to the clasp of her bra, and she winced slightly as she felt one of the hooks dig into her thumb. Fumbling, she somehow managed to untangle the metal and cloth, and let it slide down her arms. The cheap lace and satin felt abrasive against her skin, used as it was to soft cottons. She cringed as she saw the virulent pink, darker under the dim lighting, but still much too loud for her. Her shoulders instinctively hunched inwards, and she struggled against herself to straighten them and stand there, apparently uncaring of the fact that she felt more exposed then she had in years. Being undressed by someone was one thing. Undressing herself, exposing herself- if only to one person, left her feeling like she was deconstructing herself.
And, she was, in a way, she realized, as she slid her fingers across the place where the waistband of her skirt met her skin. She was uncovering herself in slow, incremental steps, letting the process stretch out to make it intense, both for herself, and for him. It felt deeply personal, on a level, but she felt completely detached. She wasn’t there. She was just acting out the steps she knew would work.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Her reverie was broken by his ragged breathing. She shook her head slightly and pushed the skirt off, hooking her thumbs through the sides of her flimsy, delicate thong. The soft, billowy chiffon whispered its way down her legs, and pooled around her feet. Her feet, like her palms, were incongruent to the rest of her. Large, broad feet with blunt toes.
Her clubfoot was visible, the lack of a gentle arch had always seemed very telling to her. It always felt like a microcosm of her very being. It functioned well enough for what it was meant to do, but it wasn’t right. It always left a dull ache behind. It wasn’t whole. After a day of running around, and getting all her work done, her feet hurt her. A hurt only she could feel, dulling throbbing moving up from the ball of her foot, up her calves. Being her felt like that, too. A certain emptiness that was replaced with a constant throb of simply existing. Her thoughts always segued into tangents she couldn’t quite complete. It left her unsettled, the very prospect of incomplete thoughts. Sometimes, they were the only things whole about her. She realized she was looking down at her feet again. Another deep breath, and she looked up, realizing she was finally nude.
She stared him in the eye, and started unspooling the constellations she had weaved onto herself. The freckles were woven together with names, and each name had a story. She unfolded each one carefully, and shook off the film of memories that coated them. She took her segueing thoughts, and sluiced them off herself, and they settled on the ground, discarded, next to her skirt. All the dreams that she collected like dark souvenirs rolled off her arms and onto her thighs, and she let all her desires unravel. Every one of her deepest secrets spilled out of her eyes, mouth, nose, ears. They spilled out of her very pores, and she seemed to shrink further as she lost all that weighed her down.
Over time, what she hid had started defining her. She grew accustomed to sheltering herself under the shadows that the awnings of her tiny deceits cast. She convinced herself that she was trying to simple protect the people she loved, and that was the first lie she told herself. It built a base for the twisted, monstrous structure that her life had turned into.
An unhealthy fixation that sapped all the energy she had, trying to sustain it.
She knew it was a dead weight tied to her, dragging her deeper into herself, but she preferred to think of it as an anchor. It kept her grounded, she told herself, as she sank deeper. And suddenly, she let go. Let the structure break. She became visibly smaller, with nowhere to employ the effort she put into maintaining facades.
Feeling emptier than she had in a long, long time, she bent down to the ground where her skirt lay, surrounded by her swirling thoughts. What she was going to do next was possibly the most painful step, but the easiest, for her. She had already let go of all that could possibly be an inhibition for her, and she wanted to get the final step over with. Her hair surrounded her face like a curtain, framing her so that she could look up, but he didn’t realize she could.
She spent longer than necessary rummaging through the skirt’s pocket, simply observing him. She could see the difference in the way he looked at her when she started, and the way he stared now. The simpleminded adoration has changed into something darker that clouded his eyes.
It was fascination.
There was no gentle love or care in his eyes anymore.
Just an animalistic spark.
He wanted more.
He has seen into her, probably more than she meant to show, and of course he wanted more.
She knew the allure of the galaxies that swirled in her, and she knew how addictive the darkness they inhabited could be.
She sighed again, and got up, a small blade glinting in her hands.
She would give him everything.
The sharp scalpel shone under the dim lights, and she gritted her teeth as she started tracing from the tip of her left hand’s middle finger, down her inner up, up to her upper arm, and to her shoulder. The blood seeped out, and she almost lost her grip on the blade because of the slickness on her hand, but she continued. The blade cut deep for something so delicate, and pretty looking, and she smiled to herself. It was funny how she could compare everything to herself. The blood kept flowing out of her, and she continued tracing herself, creating a single, bloody outline onto herself. It crossed her scalp, down the middle of her chest, on her stomach, down one thigh. Then, she changed the hand which held the blade, and traced the right side of her body. When she was done, a fine, geometric pattern on her skin shone wetly, the colour somewhere between rust and crimson.
She gasped at the pain, and he did too, because he saw more than what he wanted to see. She stared at him, and he couldn’t tear his gaze away. She waited till she was sure he couldn’t look away, and started pealing the skin off. Piece, by piece, she pulled it off, the pain overwhelming her into a quiet frenzy. She knew that if she started screaming now, she’d never stop, so she continued, breathing harshly, peeling away faster, still she stood there, her muscles glistening because of the blood and mucus on them. She just stood there for a minute, before letting out a low, throaty wail. She howled for what seemed almost too long, but not long enough. Sobbing, she started tearing her muscles off, little chunks of meat embedding themselves under her nails.
Her fingers kept digging. Probing. She couldn’t stop pulling out large, irregular chunks of herself and flinging them to the ground. He sat there, stunned, his face sprayed with little droplets of her blood that flew out from her broken veins and arteries as she moved. He could see her heart struggling to beat under her ribcage, the immense stress and pressure she was putting on her body visible through how it strained against it’s trappings. Beating so fast, almost as though it wanted to escape. He stared at her in morbid fascination. He wanted to turn away, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. She continued, now pulling at her organs. The kidneys came first, hitting the ground with a soft, splattering sound. Then her liver. Her stomach. Her heart. Her brain. She kept going, till all that was left to her were bones. A final deep breath, as she realized she was finally bare, finally free.
She looked at him through the debris-covered skull that was left of her sallow, worn face. She had finally let go, finally allowed someone in. she let go of all that held her down, all that tried to make her whole. She let go, and she reveled in the emptiness. She savored the air that wafted through her ribs, the absence of a beating heart and pumping lungs leaving her whole self oddly quiet.
She looked at him carefully and saw him barely breathing, barely moving.
He wanted to run.
But he couldn’t.
Because, he had to stay.
He wanted to.
‘Can you see me now?’, she asked