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On the art of Truth

Chris always considered himself an average man. Not all too bright, not all too handsome, not all too bright. He just sort of… was. He liked peanut-butter ice-cream and long warm showers, and, for the last few years, he liked Michaela. She was kind and beautiful, and the best thing that ever happened to him. He was very much in love with her and wanted to be the rest of his life by her side, share everything with her.

He grimaces at the long scratch on his abdomen when he notices it on the bathroom mirror.

There are a milliard little scratches all over his arms and belly, and upper back; most of them have turned either to silvery scars or to flat red lines. Most everyone thinks they’re from his best friend's cat. He’s not ashamed of them; on the contrary, he’s always been fascinated by all manner of scars. But-

He sighs.

Well, he’s invented a million excuses over the years. But now it's different; there is Michaela to think of. If Michaela notices – when she notices – she won't be pleased.

He brushes the scratch with a thumb. He likes the sting of it.

Chris dresses quickly and hopes she won’t ask.


He’s absently rubbing at a small scratch near his knee, watching the news on the internet.

The past few weeks have been horrible. His job has been hectic, and his mom has started calling again – it’s never good news when his mom starts calling. He might have gone a little bit overboard. Every day there is new blood beneath his fingernails. There are scabs all over the floor and between his teeth. He’s been sitting at his computer for an hour now, without really seeing any of the news-videos playing on his browser when Michaela lets herself in.

“You’re bleeding,” she says rather loudly and runs to grab a paper tissue before he can tell her it’s ok. She dabs at the few drops, frowning, probably at his fingers, with the bloody fingernail-beds and the skinned tips. He used to bite his fingernails, but his father made him break the habit. Instead, he started scratching at the calloused fingertips until the skin came loose, and he could pull it.

“Really, Chris… You should take better care of yourself.”

He pulls her into his lap. He doesn’t care about the blood-stains but is careful not to get any on her clothes nonetheless. He should probably tell her. But not now when she’s decided he’s had enough bad news and puts a vine-compilation instead because there’s “this vid you have to see.”


Michaela’s very serious, one of his arms in her hands. They’re so pale, the nails perfectly manicured – except for her index finger where the paint is slightly chipped. The new scratch covers the inside of his arm, from elbow to wrist. It’s infected: angry red, the scab soft and brownish where’s slightly attached to the uneven edges. It will leave a nice scar, probably. Her nails dig into the tender skin next to the wound, and her eyes are wide, very blue, and very sad.

“Why do you do this to yourself?”

He should have told her; maybe it would have been better than her catching him, very meticulously digging his nails into the skin.

“It helps me clear my head,” he answers, and he doesn’t know why his voice is so small or why he can’t look her in the eye. It’s not like he feels ashamed of himself. Because he doesn’t. He doesn't like pain - he is terrified of it actually. He wouldn't seriously hurt himself, grab a knife, or a burning pot. He doesn't get a kick out of pain. These are only cosmetic wounds. Nothing serious, just a way of concentrating, of getting rid of the tension that sometimes makes his hands itch. A way not to hurt anyone again – he still remembers that time in middle school he broke that kid’s nose and fissured his jaw. This... this is better.

“And you can’t do yoga like everyone else?”

“It’s not a big deal. Look,” He shows her another long line that got infected and has closed perfectly, leaving only a silver line behind. “It happens sometimes. When I can't leave it alone to heal properly, sometimes it gets infected. But I always take care of it when it happens.”

She’s shaking her head, and her grip is starting to hurt.

“That’s not the point.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not healthy.”

He can’t help but roll his eyes at her. Pulls his arm gently from her sharp grip. She’s left small half-moon-indentations on the white skin. “What do you want to hear? It’s only a way of letting off some steam. It doesn’t hurt anybody; it’s not like I’m maiming myself or something. And it’s not like I’m ruining anything anyway” he tries for a smile, but her eyes are so sad, and he hates that look. He hates that she thinks she has to pity him like there’s something wrong with him.

Chris loves her, really, he does. But at this moment, he hates her, too.

“Chris…” says Michaela and takes his head between her hands, her eyes are huge, shining with tears, “you need help.”

He just stares at her, anger coiling tightly in his belly and making his hands itch with too much energy, too much tension that needs to be released.

Keep it in, he tells himself. Keep it in until she leaves.

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