What Your Sister Saw
I didn’t say anything as you sliced your hands through the water, cutting through the stream from the tap, soft white bubbles foaming on blood. I remember the water running red, then pink and eventually white as you breathed deeply, unflinching, resolute.
You said it happened on the pavement just around the corner from our house. That you tripped on the laces mum was always telling you to tie. That you came from the bus stop and ran home in time for your curfew, your feet fumbling over each other, knees cracking on concrete, knuckles breaking your fall. A splinter of glass on the ground.
I never believed you.
You weren’t yourself that summer. Mum and dad thought it was hormones. Biology claiming you, taking their little boy away. In the mornings you spent so much time in the shower that it would be thick with steam and chokingly warm, the mirror fogged, puddles slopped on the floor and the smell of iron and bleach stinging the air.
One morning I asked if you had started shaving. That’s none of your business, you told me. And yet razor blades kept disappearing from the draw while your boyish face stayed the same, childlike, smooth, perfect.
There was a week where you didn’t talk to us at all. You didn’t let us in when we knocked on your bedroom door, our father raising his voice with concern. Through the keyhole, you sat hooded on your bed, eyes searching the screen of your phone, your child face in shadow, your forearms exposed, laddered with red and silver rungs.
I followed your footsteps one night and through the mirror on the wall and through the crack in the door, saw you pour thin bleach down the sink. I watched you methodically cutting through layers of skin to expose the raw, bloody mess inside, before washing out the wound, until the water ran clear.