Cut and Run by Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick

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Like a god, I parted the sea of anxiety, silenced the hectic brain. A precious pink razor from Walgreens—bought for me by my mother just a few days prior—could become the magic wand that had the power to calm. I had asked her if I could start shaving, embarrassed at recess while other girls laughed at my gold waves of leg hair shining in the sun. At twelve, to have so much power over my mind and body. It was the first time I could control the uncontrollable. I could make myself bleed.

*

When I was younger, each time I’d grow in the mirror, it felt like a dare – a magic trick to make me stop eating, to make the image staring back look familiar again. The desire to peel away layers of fat would manifest into heart palpitations. I was dirty. Worthless. I’d dig nails into my thighs to stop the spread.

*

At twelve, I searched for sharp objects. Just in case I couldn’t handle the next thought. Just in case the feeling of filth washed over me like a sinister specter at night. If I needed release, I knew I had provisions in an old shoe box in the corner of a hall closet.

“I have clients who cut themselves,” my mom said, driving my preteen self to the mall. “Usually women. Usually from some sort of sexual trauma.”

*

In college, I had recurring dreams where I’d shrink in a bed in an unknown room. I could only focus on the navy blue blinds, slicing midnight light into perfect slits. Hands would reach for me in a way that only girls who shouldn’t be touched were touched. I’d spiral upward, higher and higher until I fell awake, shaking from cold sweats, back in my apartment.

I emailed my dad and asked him if he remembered what happened in the room with the navy-blue shutters. There were three men that lived in his house I visited as a child. His answer: silence. I stopped searching for sharp objects.

*

Weeks before moving to New York City, I sat in a restaurant eating an expensive cut of steak with my brother. I told him about what happened in the room with the navy-blue shutters. I was met with a spinning ball of anger. He stopped slicing through his steak, held up his knife, pointed it at me for emphasis. “You don’t remember anything correctly,” he spat. “You’ve always been dramatic.”

*

When I got married, I tried to re-create another body. A baby would make the relationship work, would make us into a functioning machine.

*

After I filed for divorce, after the hole in the wall appeared beneath his fist, I thought, “Some part of you has to admit to yourself that you did this. You played a part.” I tried not to run through the door of my attorney’s office.

*

“Don’t over train,” my dad said. “You could hurt yourself.” I had asked him to help me prepare for my first half-marathon. To avoid falling into a depression about the end of my marriage, and driven by the idea of losing the baby-weight I had gained after having my daughter just six months before, running made sense.

*

I lost 70 pounds. I kept running because it felt good. Bones surfaced. Numbers dropped on the scale, on my clothes. I looked familiar to myself. Clean.

*

If I run long enough, I thought, I can disappear. I can stop pretending to be okay. I can control everything. After miles and miles of impact, of effort gone too long, I broke my hip, trying to control the parameters of pain. Like a human trying to be a god, I wrestled the angel of pain to the ground, tried to get it to listen for once.

Meet the Contributor

Shannon-HardwickShannon Elizabeth Hardwick’s work has appeared in Harpur Palate, The Texas Observer, Devil’s Lake, Four Way Review, Verse Daily, SWWIM, and Huffington Post U.K., among others. A graduate from Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA program, Hardwick serves as the poetry editor for The Boiler Journal and her first full-length, Before Isadore, was published by Sundress Publications. She currently lives in a village outside Cambridge, England.

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Hey Paul

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