Sixteen year old Grace Thomas sat cross-legged in a stall in the girl’s bathroom at Central International Studies High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She took out her compact mirror from her pants pocket and looked at herself. Where most saw refined beauty, she saw raw ugliness. Repulsed, she returned the mirror to her pocket and took out a small razor blade, no bigger than the size of her index finger. She had stolen it from the convenience store earlier that morning before the tardy bell rang.
She hadn’t always cut. It was a fairly recent thing, but with her family going up in proverbial flames and her life falling around her in shambles, it was the only way she knew how to cope. That, and purging. Grace knew it was wrong and it went against everything her parents had ever taught her, but by time she recognized what she was doing, it had become so ingrained in her, and she had to do it like she had to brush her teeth every morning. It became a sick and twisted ritual, kept secret as if her life depended on it.
She looked at the razor and marveled at the glint of light that reflected off its surface and onto the bathroom stall walls. Just then, the bathroom door slammed open and a pack of girls walked in. Grace stuffed the razor back in her pocket, picked up her bag, and slung it over her shoulder as she walked out of the stall.
“Look who it is, ladies,” a tall, blonde taunted. “It’s little Gracie. What’s little Gracie doing hiding out in the little girl’s room?”
Grace purposefully avoided eye contact. It only fed into their teasing. She reached for the door handle but stopped short.
“Hey,” the blonde said again. “I asked you a question. What were you doing in there?”
Grace wheeled around on her heels, cheeks flushing. “Why the hell do you care?”
“Oh, look. Gracie is getting all worked up over a question. Didn’t your parents ever tell you drugs were bad?”
Grace’s cheeks burned. “I wasn’t doing drugs. I’ve got to get to class now.”
“Yeah, right, why don’t you do a line of coke with us then? You’ll love it,” the blonde teased, and as Grace was turning around to show the pack of girls who had taunted her daily for the last eight years that she was stronger than them, a brunette girl she had never seen before decked her in the face, bruising her cheek bone. “Get the fuck out of here, Gracie, and if you say anything, we know where to find you.” The blonde chuckled, and Grace swung the door open and fled.
Instead of going to class, she deposited her unneeded books in her locker and skirted out of the school. Her face throbbed, and she had a killer headache. She walked the few blocks back home and sneaked through her bedroom window, which she kept unlocked for just these occasions. Her parents would have a fit if they ever found out, though. Pulaski Heights was a great neighborhood, but everywhere has their downsides. Lately, there have been a string of robberies a few streets away, and they didn’t want to take any chances.
Grace slipped through the window frame and made her way to her adjoining bathroom, where she examined her face. If the girl had punched her any harder, she would have broken her cheekbone. She rubbed it, wincing at the pain, then retrieved her razor from her pocket and removed her pants. She sat on the lip of the tub, and, without hesitating, dragged the razor with pressure across her thighs, leaving a deep gash.
She inhaled sharply and closed her eyes. She envisioned all the pain, all the hurt, all the anger slip away into nothingness, and a numbness she confused with happiness washed over her. Suddenly, her life was in order. The blood that trailed down her leg carried with it the chaos of her life. She stood up, dripping blood splats on the bath rug and tiled floor, and walked to the sink to first clean and sanitize the razor. Meticulously, she swabbed the blood and staunched the flow by placing pressure on the wound. With one hand, she fumbled for the bandages, rubbing alcohol, and anti-bacterial cream. With great care, she poured some alcohol on a cotton swab and cleaned the wound, wincing at the sharp pain of disinfection. She poured a glob of anti-bacterial cream on the gash before covering it with a bandage, leaving the damage to heal.
She stared at herself in the mirror, hardly recognizing herself anymore, turned around, and crawled into bed, her secret still safe.