by Angela Rooker
This has to be the last time.
The lighter clicked three times before the faithful flame lapped at the needle’s point in her hands.
How ironic is it that I’m using something that was intended to mend things? There’s something deep and telling in that.
How ironic is it that I am desiring to disinfect the thing that I want to punish myself with? Shouldn’t I just allow disease through the break of my skin?
The point gleamed in the flame, glowing ember red as a small wisp of smoke rose to the sky. As if the ghosts of past self-punishment sessions were finally being released.
This has to be the last time.
A leather-bound book, The Book of Runes, was propped open to the index of symbols. The sharp, Germanic letters called forcefully to be cast to the skin. An archaic language that had been hidden and secret, which had brought condemnation to those who spoke it. Those who understood. These characters were quite fitting for the language that she chose to translate her self-hatred. A secret code for a secret pain. For speaking her truth aloud, and not kept private on the canvas of her own skin, would only allow for persecution.
The heated pin seared into the tender flesh at the base of her thumb. The place where opposable is distinguishable. The place that allows for grabbing and holding things- tools, utensils. The place of opportunity and evolution. The perfect place to being the ritual, for without this important gift, the very needle and flame could not be held.
The burning softened into numbness as the pin drug across the skin. The pages before her bore valuable meaning to the letters about to be scribed.
H – Haglaz…emerged effortlessly.
Hail is the whitest of grain;
it is whirled from the vault of heaven
and is tossed about by gusts of wind….
A fitting description for the tempest that bellowed inside of her. The edge between torn and untouched flesh drew a single droplet of blood. A precise and satisfactory depth had been met.
O- Odal… Darkness flooded as she scoured over the pages to read the meaning, heavy and menacing with the weight of what had been carried for so long.
Inheritance, inherited estate, property, possession
The memories assaulted her, in a rabid winged frenzy. The words hammered, one by one, stripping her strength to hold the needle. What had she conjured?
You are fat
You are ugly
You are worthless
You are disposable
You are a hole
No one is listening
You deserved it
No one will ever love you
No one will ever care
Give up now
The pin drew another drop of blood. This one redder and fuller than the last.
A little too deep. Glad I didn’t use a razor for this.
The thoughts played, scratchy recorded voices of the past, as the needle continued to drift and scratch in unison to the rhythm of the inner dialog, a metronome on her skin.
This ritual had always offered a reliable, numb punishment, but now, something in the deep quickened. Something reached up, asking to be released. This was an aching place she had never before allowed.
Her hand grew more tender as the compassion rose up from the depths. Her anger soon followed, as she realized her technique of self-punishment wasn’t working as usual. Her dependable tool lost its powerful grip as grief and compassion blossomed with each new budding droplet. The line blurred between past and present as the tiny crevices in her hand filled like tributaries, flowing away from the original source inflicted pain.
Her hand trembled as silent tears pooled in the corner of her left eye. She had learned that it wasn’t safe to be fully vulnerable, so only part of her was allowed to yield to her feelings. The side that never faced anyone. Her strength buckled as a stream of tears traced the left side of her face. Her right side, stoic and cold, remained unchanged to the swirling sorrow that stirred within.
P- jagged and incongruent edges emerged on her skin as the words leapt off the page…
Þurisaz – The thorn is exceedingly sharp,
an evil thing for any knight to touch,
uncommonly severe on all who sit among them
Feelings of worthlessness engulfed her. This pain she had been carrying had been exceedingly sharp, she had always felt like she, herself, was an evil thing to touch, to avoid. This pain was a thorn in her very side. In her heart. In her mind. Her eyes- a clear azure that echoed dark pools of sadness-spoke only to those who could see what she tried to hide: she cannot see a thing of hope.
She read on, as another version of the letter called to her. It begged her attention, pulled her to read it aloud, as if casting, in full view, a powerful transmutation spell by verbal command.
“Wunjo. Or Wynn… Who uses it knows no pain, sorrow nor anxiety, and he himself has prosperity and bliss, and also enough shelter…”
Her voice caught in the words as tears choked their way through, all the way through, casting away the final edges of her stoic mask. Everything within her yielded to pain. Her knees buckled as she submitted to the release. She cradled her weeping hand, heavy sobs shook her body as she begged for change.
What’s the purpose of inscribing HOPE into the flesh if there is no room for change?
Her shaky hands lifted the book to her heart, as if bringing it closer could draw out the very poison. She looked for the final letter, but nothing seemed to fit. The closest she could find to the letter E that would match the design she had already carved was a merging of two symbols. Isaz cradled in the belly of Kaunan- as if pregnant with the energies that Isaz offered only and completely within a relationship to Kaunan.
Two definitions spoke to her, both fitting in their distinct differences.
Kaunan- Disease fatal to children
and painful spot
and abode of mortification.
The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flames…
It was as if she was looking at the two possible paths before her. One path led to darkness and death, and caused her to recoil from the page. Surely this would be her fate if she were to keep these things secret and hidden. The other led to opportunities that were life-giving, pregnant with possibility. One offered darkness, the other light. Her brow furrowed as she considered how it was at all possible such duality could exist in the same character.
Fire causes the alchemical kick towards transmutation. It is necessary.
The changing of elements on the cellular level is what she craved for now, with her entire being. She held the needle close.
“This is the last time.”
Kaunan welcomed Isaz as she made the final cut. E…
Ice is called the broad bridge;
the blind man must be led.
She took in her completed work.
Who else suffers in this way? Who else needs to emerge from this very place? Who else has come through to the other side?
This was the last time, for in the final stroke, the word HOPE was cast into the skin, a divination of things to come