On Penknives

On Penknives

August 24, 2021

 

 

 

Had a cry about H sneaking off to the shops for more booze, cried that he stank of alcohol, cried that nothing is changing and cried that I was crying again about the same things that I have cried about so many times before. Cried that he knows first-hand how bone-shatteringly sad it is to watch someone who essentially constitutes the centre of your universe repeatedly stab themselves and then protest that they're not stabbing themselves in the heart, they are still alive after all aren't they, it's just a few small stabs with a penknife it's not like they're lacerating themselves with a Pallasch, and look they just enjoy a few stabs to relax after a long day, they don't stab themselves in the morning. But you do find secret penknives shamefully hidden away in the back of the wardrobe, in the laundry box, in the garage, in the bushes, at the back of cupboards. You are watching their skin change from the clean and pleasantly ageing thing it was to a grotesquely mottled pelt, where scars layer scars layer scars but they are added so quietly and so daily that it is like trying to watch a child grow. One summer you don't recognise them anymore, although you have seen them every day. Do I know the man I am looking at now? Is this really what brings my tears?

 

“Why don’t you leave him?” someone asks. Such a young question. But it’s not their fault, being young is not a weakness or an embarrassment. They have just had less time to collect the things that make a person gentle. Growing up means more time gathering conversations in the kitchen at 3am, more failed exams, more chances to trip down the stairs somewhere public, to be terrified in the back of somebody’s car. This collection is curated over a lifetime and each new treasure softens you. I can no more “leave” him than I could step outside of my own skin. That option silently dissolved along with some other hard hopeful parts of me. Perhaps whilst I sat at my living room table, tending to a thousand tiny cuts. 

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Alice Wilson is a PhD researcher at the University of York looking at women who build their own tiny houses and is also the co-director of social enterprise OpHouse. She has been writing since she was ten years old.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash  



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