Author's notes: baby steps, baby steps. I love to write – the outlet for expressing whatever, really – but my schedule has been so hectic lately. Still, I managed to crank this out. ;)
Warning note: this story deals with self-injury as a coping mechanism. If you find these sorts of stories triggering then please be wise, and stay away.
Also, As many of you already know from some of my other writings, I am interested in how religion shapes self-perception, how it can lessen guilt, lead to guilt, or warp a persons' sense of self.
So I thought it would be interesting to include religious elements in this story.
Although Grissom is considered the "lapsed Catholic" on the show, it is Sara that seems to be the one trapped in this work-a-holic-out-of-guilt cycle. And that fascinates me. Additionally, since first season, Sara has been portrayed as someone who would neglect her health for a case, or engage in less than healthy modes of thinking – so I don't think anything in this story is outside of the realm of possibility for her character.
Finally, any inner memories and thoughts of Sara's are sandwiched in (((this))) manner. It may make the story seem a tad disjointed at times, although I think it might work given the state of mind of the character.
It has been an atrocious day and I'd like nothing more than to go home.
But there is still work to do, and I'm technically not off the hook just yet.
Grissom is alone in the break room as I check in with him, so he informs me of the specifics as I drown my cracked Daffy Duck mug with fresh coffee. Swiping for the Sugar Twin he calls my attention to the case.
I look up.
I mumble something to let him know I'm awake.
"I know you are tired, but I'm thinking in about five hours we can make some headway and by then Catherine will be back. I just want this case wrapped up soon. We are so close to completion."
My yawning silences him. "S'okay, Griss. I just need some caffeine."
Glancing back at him, I realize he is well into a double shift and is probably even more exhausted than I am, so I grab a very simple roan mug and get some coffee for him as well.
Returning to the table, I place his coffee before him. Cream, no sugar, while mine is black today and hugely sweetened. So sweet, in fact, that it tastes more like candied liquid than anything else.
He's reading the latest briefing carefully again, and starts to hand it to me when he hits the mug and sends it to the floor, spilling coffee over me.
I guess I shouldn't have put it quite THAT close to the edge. My fault.
"Sara! I-" He stops. It's obvious he didn't see the mug.
Very quickly I move to the sink to get the dustpan. He takes the broom off of me and begins to sweep up the debris.
"I didn't burn you did I?"
Hesitation belies my words.
That doesn't answer the question.
Truth is, my hand is slightly burned. It has turned red, so I put it under cold water as he finishes cleaning up.
He takes the pan from me and gives a semi-smile. An anxious smile. "Sorry. I didn't see it."
Upon returning to the sink, he grabs some paper towel, but instead of using that to sop up the coffee on the floor, he blots my shirt.
"Grissom. This is an old rag. I don't care about it..."
Still, Grissom is Grissom and he continues to mend to me.
Turning off the water, he quickly appraises my hand, and declares that it won't blister. Seeing my soaking sleeve he takes yet another ream of paper towel and presses against the fabric.
Coffee plumes into the towel. Coffee and blood, and when he stops pressing, he notices the distinctly pink tint of the towel.
"It didn't cut you... did it?"
He sounds confused. The clothing covered my arms, so his mind can't make sense of why I'd be bleeding. But there is blood on the towels.
Blood that has soaked through my shirt.
This is not good. I hadn't realized it was bleeding again. It had stopped bleeding.
"Oh. Yeah. It's nothing."
I can't think of an excuse. For the life of me, I can't think of anything to say. He knows I'm bleeding. What am I supposed to do – lie and say...what?
There is nothing I can do. I am sort of glad I bandaged the cuts before I came to work.
Gingerly he pulls up my sleeve to reveal white bandages that are now soggy with blood.
I know it looks like a lot of blood, but it's not that bad. It's just a couple of superficial cuts.
One or two a little deeper than normal.
But Grissom can't understand.
He wouldn't understand.
(((I have sinned)))
"Oh – I-I cut my arm on a tin can. The damn thing won't stop bleeding. I'll change it later. Don't worry." I quickly pull my shirtsleeve down again.
But his face is still scrunched up in concern and I can tell he won't let it go.
"No. Don't be ridiculous. You need to keep the bandages clean. If it's bleeding that much, you could get an infection more easily, or transmit blood when you are processing, or both."
A slight slug of sadness wells in my gut. Thanks Grissom.
Think of your scene.
Think of the processing.
I push my melodramatic thoughts out of my mind. I realize Grissom can't win. If I push him away when he acts concerned, and then feel hurt when he lets the subject drop, how is he supposed to do anything right?
Nick enters the room and side steps the mess on the floor.
"Whoa. Grissom? You know you really have a coffee addiction when you can't hold on to the mug!"
He steps over to us, and his shoe connects with splintered fragments that make a distinct crunching sound.
"You've missed some over here. I can just see Greggo slipping on a piece and cutting himself."
As Nick speaks, Grissom's hand flitters over to my side and lightly connects with my left arm. Touches it, or rather – touches the damp sleeve - and then like a butterfly, disconnects. My heart races up and I try not to change my stance.
(((Sister Francis is blathering on and on and I doodle on my homework. B. I lash at the B with my pen – angry with my grade. Sister keeps talking and talking.
"But today, colloquially, a sin is any thought, word, or act considered faulty, shameful, harmful to oneself or to others, or which alienates self from others and especially from God. Through sin, guilt is incurred; and according to guilt, punishment is deserved..."
I raise my hand.
"Yes – Sara?"
"Sister – how do we atone for sin? How do we atone for God?")))
I swallow and step away from Grissom.
-- -- -- --
Riding in the Denali with Griss is infuriating. It takes 40 minutes to get to Hicksville, and I'm feeling decidedly anxious tonight.
I've already changed the bandages once, and can feel a new wetness coming through my shirt. I want to check my arm but can't at the moment so I hope...
"Sara. Stay here for a moment. I'm just going to check in with Brass."
He saunters off, and I watch as his form gets smaller and smaller and is finally enveloped by darkness.
It's so dark out here that I feel it might be safe enough to do a cursory examination of the cut. With Grissom gone for a few minutes I might even be able to re-bandage the wound.
Sure enough, it's bleeding and I swallow an acidic lump. I'm starting to get scared. It's not bleeding a lot, but it's not stopping either. It's oozing, almost. And it's so bright. So red – well, it's tar black in the darkness, only visible as an outline on the white bandages in the moonlight. It makes me feel nauseated.
I glance around and look for a public waste bin. The entrance of the park isn't illuminated like it should be, and I remember Grissom telling me that they had found the park overhead lights smashed upon initially arriving. Hackles rise on my back, and feeling quite chilled and almost scared, I open the door and sink back into the safety of the vehicle. Grissom, after all, might be gone awhile and there is no reason why I have to stand around outside waiting for him.
I yawn for the sixth time of the night and shiver – I'm bleeding, chilled, scared – and I don't know why. I feel like I did as an 11-year-old runt on the overnight camping trip when I got my period for the first time.
It was a similar sort of night. A night of blood and fear and anxiety… trapped in my body. A night of wanting to talk to someone if only to get some sort of consolation from another, and not wanting anyone to know what was happening to me. Embarrassment and worry about what would happen if anyone did find out. Feeling torn.
Only then, my bleeding was considered natural.
((("Menstruation is a normal, natural, cyclic process occurring in all healthy adult women between…")))
I don't know if Grissom, or Nick, or anyone would find this bleeding natural. So I have no choice. I have to just stay quiet.
Not like it's hard to do. I haven't told anyone about this in nine years. Nine years. God, how could this still be going on? Why is this still going on? It's safe to say that I didn't think I would still need this nine years ago.
At 25, in my first year of a graduate program, it seemed like my maladaptive coping mechanism of choice. If I woke up in a cold sweat, it was a way of just silencing the screams I could feel lodged in my throat. Living in a dorm, with a roommate, I couldn't fall apart.
((("PTSD may have a delayed onset of years or even decades and may be triggered by a life event such as...")))
So I guess, in a way, I can understand why I'm triggered now. After the DUI, Grissom had been a little more sensitive I guess. More alert. Yet, I keep feeling like all this pain needs to be purged again. I don't know why. I thought it was over.
I look up.
Grissom has the door open and the ping-ping-pinging of the keys in the ignition startles me.
I hadn't realized I was drifting off.
My voice is thick with tiredness.
"Has David come?" I inquire.
"No". His voice is like static fuzz.
"Is Brass here? Can we let them take over now?"
I realize that Grissom has stopped talking. Instead, he's turned on the emergency light and my eyes scrunch up as I readjust to the light.
His voice is like a croak.
Looking down, I realize that maroon trails have come down unto my hand. He must have seen their outline in the dark.
Before I can say No! he has my sleeve raised again. I see him quickly finger the dirty bandages. Dirty with my blood.
"You were to change these." Disapproval.
I gulp. I did.
Like a petulant child, I grumble that I had, and he looks worried now.
"They are still bleeding?"
He grabs his kit and flips open the first aid box. Getting the polysporn, some bandages, and an alcohol swab he turns to me.
"Yeah. I'll do it later Griss."
I aim for nonchalance.
I don't sound nonchalant.
"Stop being silly. This must be pretty deep. It's been bleeding for a long time – it might even require stitches."
Can't argue with that.
"Can I?" It doesn't sound so much like a question.
I grab the materials and give him a look – I'm sure my expression says 'I can do it'. Or 'leave me alone'.
And then I realize what is happening. He's not going to let this go.
There is dead quiet in the car and the second I take the bandage off, he's going to see.
A light, tickling sensation in my stomach and I know I have to get out right now. Feeling like a trapped animal, I hand the materials back.
He looks confused.
"Why are you making such a big deal about this Grissom? It's a damn cut!"
I don't know if I'm really angry. I think I'm scared, actually.
His voice is gentle. "Why are you making such a big deal out of a cut?"
I bite my cheek.
Like a bandage that needs to be ripped off quickly, this has got to end. So what. So what. So what if he sees? What is going to change? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
I pull the bandage and my arm is covered with encrusted blood and fresh blood. Bright red, light red. A watercolor of red.
And a dozen little crisscross lines of pink. Two of which are bleeding.
((("Atonement, Sara, is reconciliation with God, of people who have sinned. It is a concept of forgiveness and repair, based on the mercy of God, which is derived...")))
I don't look at Grissom, but I hear him inhale sharply. The hitch. He doesn't say anything for a moment.
Then - a gentle touch. I flinch. Don't touch me. Don't touch.
It's obvious that I didn't cut myself on a tin can. I can't bullshit myself out of this.
He blots the blood and it makes each brilliant, savage line even starker against the white of my skin.
"This one is really deep."
A whirlpool in my stomach then, and I don't trust myself not to throw up.
"You went too deep this time, Sara."
"It's not that deep – it's not. It's superficial!" I reply quickly – my voice high and tinged with stress.
He seems momentarily angered. "It's deliberate."
"It's a cut! Two – two cuts!"
He takes a deep breath.
"They are deliberate cuts. And there is far more than two. Why would you do THIS?" And then a look of pain comes over his features and he slowly pulls down my jacket and hides the grotesque sight.
"It'll be okay. It'll be okay." He says to himself, quietly, his voice little more than a whisper.
I don't know whether he is trying to reassure me, or himself, but his voice is soft and I don't want it to be.
Don't be nice to me. That's what I want to say.
I'm not a damn doll.
Dolls don't bleed.
"I'm sorry Sara. I-" His voice dips and fizzles out. The static has died away and I can only hear my heart.
I can't take handle any more guilt. I can't let him think this is because of anything he did. That isn't fair. I can't let Grissom believe that. I can't have that on my conscience.
My vision blurs as I blink back a few errant tears and my stomach does cart wheels.
"This isn't your fault. It's mine. It's-"
He lightly takes my hand as I start to protest, but is respectful of my arm. Toying with my fingers he brings his eyes to his lap.
"No more Sara. You have to promise. You have to promise not to do this again."
Nine years of my life, and this is how I've coped. I don't know how easy I can stop this now.
I nod. Sure. Ok. If it keeps him from worrying, then I'll nod.
But I know I just won't stop.
((("Lying is a cardinal sin...")))
But I have no choice.
He was never supposed to find out.
--- --- ---
The water in the bathtub turned cold ages ago, and yet I still hadn't bothered to move from my wrinkly position. Bringing a soggy hand up closer for examination is a bad idea. I immediately feel queasy.
The skin that was old has gone pale – bloodless - excess tissue around the ends of each nail. God, I must be dehydrated ... and soaking in an Epsom salt filled tub for nearly two hours isn't helping the cause. Still, I don't want to get out yet.
Begrudgingly I force my exhausted body to rise and bend forward. After tinkering around with the faulty tap for a bit, a combination of hot and ice cold water mingles and spurts out, diluting the soapiness that has become my bath for tonight. In fact, I must have gone through a good half bar of strawberry soap in the last 90 minutes.
Two seconds after the water temperature begins to normalize, my cell phone starts blasting me. I know the Nokia is nestled in my grubby jeans pocket, which I so badly do not want to touch right now.
After what must be an eight or ninth ring, I stand up, still slightly soapy. Feeling the air against my lean body causes some mega goose pimples. Damn... where are those towels?
Shivering, I walk naked across the bathroom and languidly hit the 'speak' button on the phone.
Grissom's voice comes through the line with an uncharacteristic graininess.
"Yeah? No – where are you? Ok. Ok."
He has just asked me if I want to trade off with Nick, whose come down with a nasty case of 'don't-eat-warm-mayo-leftovers-you-moron' food poisoning. God, this is lame. I knew Nick was destined to ralph up that stale Monte Cristo the moment he plowed into the sticky, over-mayonnaised concoction of grossness. In all actuality, he deserves what he gets.
Now tell me that Texan isn't half goat! I mean, who in their right mind could like to eat something that sounds like a mixture of squashed remnants out of a carnival garbage can?
So it isn't with much grace in my heart that I begin looking for my clothes.
Pulling taught jeans over drying thighs, I rush to the hamper to grab something that could pass in a pinch for 'cleanish'. Now I have to be efficient, as I never foresaw the possibility that Grissom would call me back to the scene after double shifts every other day for the last fortnight.
Finding a gingham printed shirt, I wrestle it on and then swear when I notice just how high the three-quarter length sleeves ride.
I yank it off, dash to my bedroom and select something more concealing.
Back in the washroom, I glance up into the cabinet mirror.
A tad peeked, but nothing that looks horrendous. I didn't really lose much blood this time, so I shouldn't worry.
I just need to sip on some juice.
For a brief moment, I feel ashamed.
(((I have sinned)))