jess ingrassellino 1999, 2020
After hours of fighting this morning, my parents leave. The house is mine. The house is mine, and I am looking for a weapon. Assault is of the highest order: an assault upon myself. I run into my parent’s dark, messy bedroom, looking. Scanning. Searching. Searching for something sharp. A razor, a pocketknife. Anything to slice my flesh. The thought of cutting makes me queasy, but intense emotion drives me to keep searching.
I keep searching for answers. I can’t understand why my parent’s didn’t just abort me if I was going to ruin their lives. All I’ve heard about my entire life is how I’ve ruined their lives. Just the other night, they were screaming at each other. My dad said it’s my mom’s fault that I’m crazy, and my mother said that it’s my dad’s fault I’m heartless. I couldn’t even cry out or argue, because even though they were yelling at full volume at four in the morning, I wasn’t supposed to hear them. Being thought of as crazy and heartless wasn’t supposed to hurt me. But it did.
Found. A Bic leg razor. I grab it, shaking, forgetting my purpose for a moment. Remove the yellow cap, turn it over and over in my sweaty palms. There’s wear on the edges, a little rust in the corner, but it’ll do. I put the cap back on the leg razor, and dart from the bathroom to the kitchen, my eyes shooting around the room. I need the pliers, so I open the tool drawer, too fast. The tools crash to the floor.
“Damn!” My heart pounds; my brother bounds out of his room, into the kitchen.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing. I just – I need to fix something in my room.”
“Oh.” He leaves, too little to notice or care about what I’m doing. I pick up the tools, shut the drawer, and go hide in my room. I’m nervous. Terrified.
I remember when I started feeling terrified, when my mother started hating me. It was when I turned twelve. When we both had more at stake. She had just started working again, and I was responsible for taking care of my siblings after school and every Saturday. She started drinking, every day. There were no less than ten empty handles of Jim Beam under the sink at any given time, and two full ones in her bedroom. She threatened repeatedly to give me up for adoption because I talked back to her. She accused me of lying when I remembered things she didn’t because she was drinking. She told me I was garbage and no good.
My parents return home, already arguing as they walk through the door. I play my tape of the Nutcracker, trying to drown out their voices, while I work with the pliers to extract the blade from the leg razor. My parents always argue about the same things: money, my grandparents, drugs. The arguing doesn’t scare me, but their violence does. Their outbursts. Kicking apart rocking chairs, setting the couch on fire, taking a hammer to the stereo. Turning off the electricity. Threatening to kill us. These things scare me, because I don’t know how to stop them. I don’t know how to be better.
After a tense dinner, hours of screaming, my siblings sleep. I’m never sure how they can sleep. I can’t sleep as long as my parents are still fighting. Too anxious. Shaking from the inside out, I go to my jewelry box and find my makeshift razor blade. I can’t handle this anymore. I push the razor against my skin and cut. Cutting doesn’t hurt, so I make another cut. And another. And another.
I’m relieved. I’m tired. I put the razor blade away and crawl back into bed, observing the four cuts, each so shallow that they have already begun to scab over. I haven’t felt calm the way I feel calm now, even as I keep listening to my parents yell about what a piece of shit I am and how I ruined their lives.