What is it to achieve parity? My life was one of juxtaposition. A life of contrast is prone to conflict; both internal and external. As a teenager I was morbidly obese. At one point more than 350 pounds hung from my suffering skeleton. I had an epiphany and slimmed down. My skeleton suffered no longer, but my skin was empty. Loose folds sat shamefully under my shirt. To make matters worse, during my weight loss, I became strikingly handsome. My cheekbones were pronounced, my lips were thick and full, my eyes were shaped like almonds and all of these desirable features settled symmetrically upon my face. I was both beauty and beast. All the hard workouts and counted calories that were supposed to restore my confidence only created uncertainty. Many nights were spent lying awake in bed. I’d stare at the ceiling and contemplate my identity. Was I the face or the body? Was there a soul inside of me that superseded physicality or was that just another marketing gimmick. Was the soul sold? Not by people, but to people by corporations with truckloads of T shirts, bumper stickers and self help books they needed to offload on a population desperate for their weaknesses to be validated by an entity other than themselves.
I was cutting tomatoes in the kitchen when it all became too much to bear. I had a sharp knife that my grandmother had recently purchased from a local salesman who went door to door giving knife demonstrations. He cut leather in half and my grandmother was so impressed by this that she bought $200.00 worth of knives from the young salesmen who looked like he had just gotten out of high school.
I placed the edge of the knife along the tip of my thumb and hesitated for a moment before making a minuscule incision. A sharp stinging pain radiated from the small wound and blood dripped down to the crease of skin between my thumb and index finger. Despite the sensation, I rubbed the wound with the tip of my finger in a circular motion and the blood became darker and appeared thicker than it had just prior. As I grew more familiar with the wound the pain seemed to subside. Pain is only intolerable when aided by uncertainty. If you understand the pain, then it becomes routine and its burden is reduced to the numbness of familiarity.
I stared at my face in the window. My transparent reflection blended in with our neighbor’s home across the street. There was a Christmas tree in their window wrapped in a thin red ribbon. Red, green, silver and gold ornaments hung from the tree with various other items. I was mesmerized by the tree. It was beautiful. No hidden ugliness existed within the tree. The ornaments were simply decorative and were there to enhance, not obscure.
I envisioned what it would feel like to take the knife and jam it directly into my stomach. I thought about bleeding out right there in my grandmother’s kitchen. The sensation of my plasma settling upon the linoleum floor, but I shuddered. I couldn’t stand the idea that the last bit of light to exist in my dying eyes were that of the fluorescent bulbs fastened to the ceiling above me.
I sat down on the kitchen floor. I didn’t want to see my face reflected in the window any longer. I didn’t want to see the neighbor’s well decorated Christmas tree either. So much truth in its beauty. So many lies in mine. My face told lies that my lips wouldn’t dare utter. I had to do something. Something to right this wrong. I couldn’t live in limbo any longer. I thought about taking the knife and in a quick jerking motion slitting my own throat, but death wasn’t what I was after. I was after a life of truth. One that was free from burden, expectation and stress. When your appearance is disfigured, your reputation is regarded as nothing more than an afterthought. Your saintly deeds are overlooked and your sins are easily forgiven as the crowds rationalize the cruelty of chance as karmic retribution. The keys to freedom come in many forms.
I placed the edge of the knife against my forehead and made a small cut. Just enough to bleed. The initial sting was less severe than the cut on my finger. I stood up and stared into the window. I watched as the blood followed its own path down the bridge of my nose and dripped on the tip of my lips before eventually oozing onto my chin. I felt empowered. I made another incision diagonally over my left eyebrow. This one with less caution than the first. It was deeper and exceeded the pain of the initial cut on my finger, but I was enraptured at the sight of the fresh blood flowing down the curvature of my face. I made another on my left cheek. I kept cutting in a frenzy until my pale skin became completely crimson. My entire face was covered with slashes. I wanted to get rid of my eyebrows entirely. The pain grew intense, but I forced the blade into my skin and peeled half of my left eyebrow off. The skin just hung there with the hair still on it, thick and swollen. My hands began shaking uncontrollably and I dropped the knife on the floor. I felt dizzy, but I wanted to continue cutting. I fell to my knees. Blood was pooling on the floor. I reached for the knife again, but it slipped between my fingers. I vomited. I was moaning in pain, but the pain was physical and I could feel a glow in my chest. My spirit was healing. The truth was setting me free.
I lied limply on the floor. My own blood and vomit surrounded me. It was on my shirt, in my hair, on my face. I pushed myself back up. I stood for a moment, but my knees were far too weak. I couldn’t stand. I fell back down. I crawled toward the dishwasher, leaned my head against it and began to laugh. Suddenly everything was funny to me. The glow that originated in my chest had reached my cheeks and produced a smile. The laughs were genuine and fell flatly out of my throat into the atmosphere. I cackled. The crying stopped.I heard the front door open and I closed my eyes.
My grandmother walked into the kitchen. She screamed “blood!” I took two aspirin that morning for a minor headache. It thinned my blood. I bled a lot.
I was fading in and out of consciousness. My grandmother was screaming at a 911 operator. She told them someone broke into the house and attacked me.
“Grandma, it’s okay,” I yelled. She stared at me and I slowly crawled toward the knife and gripped it tightly.
“What happened?” She cried.
I grabbed the knife and placed it on my half severed eyebrow and with a fast slicing motion I cut it entirely off. We both screamed. She dropped the phone on the ground.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” she cried more frantically than before. I began to laugh.
“I’m finally telling the truth.” After that I completely faded away.
I awoke several hours later handcuffed to a hospital bed. My face was wrapped tightly in gauze. A nurse was staring at me with a genuine look of sadness and concern swirling around her eyes. I looked at her and she immediately looked away.
I was free.