Scar Tissue

The social ghosts whispered their gossip behind cups of tea and mock concern. She’s a cutter.

A what?

She cuts herself.  That’s why she wears long sleeves all the time.

Where did you hear it?
I overheard her when she was on the phone one afternoon.

Why does she do it?

Her husband left her.  And she’s depressed or bi-polar or something.

She scratched at the surface trying to interpret the layers of meaning hidden under epidermis.  But with each pass of the blade, she was adding layers, not removing them.  The scabs and scar tissue became a burial mound.

“I don’t know you,” he said to end sixteen years of marriage.  The spiritual void between them had opened long before the physical space was vacated.

She picked up the journal and pen; her doctor’s idea.  Initially she was reticent, afraid of the emotions.  Now it was a madwoman’s epistles and certainly no gospel.

To thine own self be true,” she wrote.  “But I don’t know myself.  Ever since hospital I know what I was and now what I am.  But I can’t reconcile the two.  I wanted to say to him I wasn’t that person because I was sick; all the things that happened was not really me.  If I were an onion, I would be layers of peeled vegetable with nothing at its core.  I have hidden things away.  Buried them.  And lost myself.  Somehow I hope to find myself.  But what is there to find?”

Putting down her pen she opened the taps of the bath, watching it cascade, raising steam in dervishes.  One by one she laid out her personal effects on the basin.   Watch.  Wedding rings.  Earrings.  Necklace.  She looked at them as simply artefacts of a life that no longer existed and it was impossible to assign any relevant meaning to them.  Her eye flicked toward the bathroom cupboard, knowing the blade she had hidden wrapped in a tissue.

She pulled off her jeans, followed by the t-shirt over her head and folded it neatly on top.  With a movement akin to a lover’s, she unclasped her bra and removed her underpants, folded them and laid them next to her jeans and t-shirt.

She slid into the water, almost scalding to the skin.  She sank deeper, allowing the water to envelope her like a womb.  Running her hands over her skin, the tiny bubbles that had formed rushed to the surface and dissipated.  An involuntary laugh escaped her lips as she imagined her breasts as bobbing jellyfish under the water. Cupping them she thought back to when they had attracted, wooed and courted her husband.  In turn they nurtured and were suckled by the mouths of her children. Instinctively her hand went below her navel and traced the caesarean scar, a tidal mark above the black sea urchin of her pubic hair.

Turning her forearms upwards she compared the scars of a death and a scar that brought forth life. She wanted to be reborn in the primordial water, emerge with lungs and feet, breathe in life giving draughts, to be as Eve in her nakedness.

But the scars branded her as a failure; the cross-hatched lines of an artist’s shading up and down her forearms.  The bastard daughter of Eve.  She pulled the plug and let the water drain away.

Lazarus, come forth.

35 responses to “Scar Tissue

  1. This is a mind-blowing friday flash debut. It was so intense I held my breath. You use some wonderful descriptions. Unfortunately, the scenario is so believable. Thank you for this powerful story..:)

  2. Great debut story! I like that the end seems to suggest the rebirth from the the spiritual death she’s been experiencing.

    Welcome to #fridayflash!

  3. Quite a dramatically wonderful way to join the #fridayflash community with such a powerful debut story.


  4. Adam this was really powerfully written. And spoke to me too, on a personal level. One thing you might not have considered, as someone who has a c-sec scar, that can be felt to be a brand of failure too (when it’s not chosen but forced upon you). The scar might be evidence of bringing forth life but for some of us it is also sign of a failing as a woman, which can exacerbate depression. Anyway perhaps getting a bit deep but it struck me at the end that you spoke only of her arm scars when discussing her failure.

    • Hey Stacey, thanks for another perspective. It’s not one that I had considered before; both my girls were born naturally with a little aid. Some food for thought.

  5. There is such sadness in this. She deserves so much more. I really hope she finds it. I hope she finds a way to wake up from her depression.

    Welcome to #fridayflash! I had no idea you hadn’t joined it before. I’ve been assuming all your Fiction Friday stuff has been #fridayflash, too. But anyway. Great debut. 🙂

  6. Deanna Schrayer

    Fantastic debut Adam! That first sentence pulled me in immediately and I was hooked throughout. Super work!

    Re: the c-sec scar, my second son was born via emergency cesarean, but I’ve never looked upon the scar as failure. Though that feeling is an individual one, I believe it is fathomable that more women would see it that way than not.

    Welcome to #fridayflash!

  7. Yes, a powerful story, and an admirable topic well told. Good points about the C-section. Because of emergencies with my first two kids I had a total of 4 sections. Ridiculously but poignantly I did for a while feel that I hadn’t really ‘given birth’ to my children and it was a source of sadness. What I love about this story is that it didn’t go down the normal route and she found some level of self-acceptance at least for the time being.

  8. Wow… welcome to #fridayflash with a BANG! What a fantastic story… perfect decsriptions and so REAL.

    I can’t wait to read more.

    Jim Bronyaur

  9. Really wonderfully written. Very emotionally intense.

    I have been lucky enough to have 3 natural births but I can totally understand what other people have said about c-section scars too.

    Welcome to #fridayflash!

  10. Well told, descriptive, really gets in tune with her empty emotions. Very strong debut story!

  11. “Now it was a madwoman’s epistles and certainly no gospel.” Love this line!

    Powerful as the others said. This one flowed and pulled me in, though I must admit, I think I read it between my fingers that were covering my face. Thank you for not bringing this to suicide–it has so much impact as her rut of despair.

    You have a readable style and your writing conveys a sense of more below the surface.

  12. yearzerowriters

    The last 3 paragraphs really lifted this on to another level. The lyricism and metaphors came thick and fast and somehow delivered her state of mind to me far more than the more analytical/reflective tone that preceded it.

    The jellyfish breasts was a particularly stunning image.

    Welcome to the community.

    Might we have heard of your band?

    Marc Nash

  13. Powerful stuff and some great language – “But with each pass of the blade, she was adding layers, not removing them” having had experience with a close friend who self harmed this is so so so true and a powerful message. Great work

  14. One of the best pieces I’ve read this week. Impactful.

    Welcome to #fridayflash. I’ll be back to read more.

  15. Stunning debut! The language is just wonderful and packs such a punch. I’m glad she stuck around, and hopes she finds peace.

    Welcome to #fridayflash! Simply excellent story.

  16. Welcome to Friday Flash! Great debut… Your descriptions work well, and you leave the reader with just enough hope at the end that she’ll choose a new lease on life rather than death.


  17. This excellent flash fiction and thank you for sharing it. From word choice to sentences to the way information is traded (like the opening about cutters), it’s a pleasure to read on every level – except for her plight, of course.

  18. The way this unfolded was devastatingly beautiful, even given the subject matter. *Applauds*

  19. Wow. You have really stepped up your game with this piece. Beautifully written, just the right emotional tone. Bravo, Adam, I’m glad I stopped by.

  20. Loved the imagery of her in water and its references to the sea. I preferred the ending bit (maybe cos the ghosts didn’t come back and it seemed like it was going to take on a more magic-realist approach). The flow of the story was also more natural towards the end. Good job capturing the psychological complexities of depression and hurt.

    Enjoyed reading this piece! 🙂

  21. Brave subject matter to tackle. Scarification and self-harm are such a taboo and I think you captured how the mutterings of society wound just as deeply.

  22. Loved this one. What a terrific debut. A complex delve into the mind of a soul at the crossroads. I’m so happy that you ended it on a positive note.

  23. Very strong writing here, and a wonderful debut. I agree with Alison, I was so glad you chose not to go down the road so often traveled, and the razor stayed in the cabinet. The religious/biblical metaphors were wonderfully placed and expertly used. Terrific.

  24. Wow. This is powerful writing. Compelling.

  25. Nice use of detail. Very well written. The bathtub scene made me think of a mikvah in some ways. (It’s a ritual bath that allows for spiritual renewal and cleanliness.)

  26. I love this. I don’t know why you were so nervous, it’s excellent. And those tiny changes make it such a powerful, moving read. Well done, sir!

  27. I read this story after Isabella Black’s flash about another suicide; I find it interesting how two different stories this year similarities yet be very different. You capture her internal conflict well. Welcome to Friday flash.

  28. Fabulous debut. Poetic and tragic. Beautifully written piece.

  29. The scabs and scar tissue became a burial mound.


    Wonderfully, achingly told.

    Welcome to #fridayflash. Peace…

  30. Great story. I once wrote a #FridayFlash about cutting, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this one.


  31. Excellent story. Great emotion throughout. Well written.

  32. Deep and rich. Beautiful. Would have liked it to go on and on. You’ve found a voice worth listening too. Thanks for writing.

  33. Wow Adam that was amazing 🙂

  34. Love the notion of trying to bore within by removing layers, yet only ending up increasing the layers with scar tissue.

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