The first time I cut, I was twelve. Merely a child, old enough to call myself a "teenager", but still caught in the delicate weave of youth. At twelve, you are a naïve and absorbent sponge willing to conquer mountains.
I was different. At twelve, I already knew the rules. I was no sponge. I was a battered rag doll, a favorite quarry amongst the school's predators. They were sharks who would deliberately nick my finger, then dive into the water and lure me in. And once my seams had completely burst, they'd patch me up as best they could and send me home. See you for another round tomorrow.
The only part they would miss was the stuffing. Every time. Sometimes it was just a speck, sometimes it was a vital bundle. Each attack left me more and more vulnerable, emptier inside than before.
I had always wondered what it was like to bleed on my own.
It was exhilarating, cutting. Even the idea of it would excite me. Adults have names for it – "self-destructive behavior" is a favorite – but that's improper. Cutting is a truly heinous act that deserves no substitutes. The first prick will sting. Always. Even if pain is no foreign sensation to you, as it wasn't to me, it will hurt. This crossed my mind, and gave the prospect of diving my mother's best bread knife into my chaste palm a frightening appeal. Then, my skin broke, the spreading tingle gyrated into a dizzying intoxication, and nothing scared me anymore.
The hellish addiction was swift and fast. Before even age thirteen, I resorted to any sharp utensil I could find to fulfill my sick desires. It became so that no blade of any scissor or knife in my household had been untouched by my tithe. And from my labors, I drew glorious wine. Back then, it was so beautiful in its cherry hue, and so fluid in feel, nothing near the sluggish, venomous ooze that would ultimately seep from my diseased veins. My own blood used to give me a darker and stronger rush than anything I had ever encountered. I was rewarded for my vile acts with a pulse of retreating blood as it desperately tried to remain in my body. Whatever droplets did, however, were frustratingly difficult to clean. My mother, a limp and perfidious whore, might've been loose, but she was no fool. All it would take would be for her to arrive early and discover her thirteen year old son, hunched over like a vagrant in the bathroom with a jagged edge poised over his prickling wrists.
This would not happen until much later, long after I had received my saving grace.
By the beginning of high school, cutting had granted me the gift of paranoia, a demon that, try as I might, could not be bled out of me. Still, time had not waned my need to sever my fragile outer membrane any less. Time fed my disparaging infatuation. And high school, I ventured, would too.
Unknowingly, so did they.
Ah, yes. Them: Kyle, a phoenix born of fire rather than ash, and Kenny, a wingless seraph whose pure appearance spoke opposite to his dirty mind, and Stan, an outspoken charcoal smudge on a bright palette. The Jew, try as he might with his envy-green eyes, never served his cause properly. He would bring me to the edge, then withdraw his tenderly offered rapier, as if he sensed the dark torrents hurtling inside of me. His tongue was an acidic barb that served as a soldier to his fierce temper. He came off as a cerebral assassin with quick, caustic wit. However, I saw right through his clever masque. He would not fight if he dared.
I loathed his raven best friend, as well, for as long as we had been associated. He was everything that I was not, aside from an appetite for football. This was until my fourteenth birthday, when he arrived at my doorstep with his fingers forming a steeple around a hastily wrapped gift. He passed it to me, his colorless lips uttering some form of vague congratulation.
Had I not slammed the door in his sallow face then, had I lingered a moment and uncloaked my endowment, I might've drawn up the nerve to touch him.
My present was a knife, a beautiful damsel of silver hair and black robes. My own disgusting reflection lived in the pristine razor. I felt so inadequate alongside it, holding such a pretty thing in such impure hands. Blighting its elegant blade would be no mundane task. It was one to be celebrated.
With that knife, I began the true corruption of my scorned body. But first, I stashed the maiden away and spread the infection as quickly as allowed.
I called Kenny.
Kenny, my beloved, fair comrade, was another pretty thing of mine, a back lot harlot even at high school age. He did not exist on adult radar. He breezed right underneath it on his wispy legs, light as wind. His aquamarine eyes held a bright, charismatic glimmer, and his golden throat a cautious melody that sang siren's arcs of lethal spells to any ear that dared to listen. Up until my fourteenth year, however, I treated the blond sylph no better than I treated the others. Though, truthfully, in my cloudless sky, he was the only ray of light able to break the haze, and, his needs were just as macabre as my own, if not more so.
I supposed he was not of mortal blood, and the idea of milking such an unearthly creature was too much for my diminishing fortitude.
He was quick to respond, seeing that only a block separated our houses. He arrived practically naked, in a ribbed wife beater through which his succulent bones showed, and weathered jeans that billowed around his peasant legs. No shoes. On any other occasion, I would not have allowed his poor man's feet to soil my carpet. That time, I made an exception. It was filling me, the euphoria of what I was about to do, with a saccharine animosity. Every remaining rational portion of my brain shriveled away that day.
Kenny was easy to lure. So very, very easy. He followed like a loyal pawn after me to my bedroom, where the serpent was waiting. And while he lingered in the threshold before my bed, perhaps experiencing a silent epiphany, I unearthed my new narcotic and gingerly shut the door.
A shadow of pale lashes fully extended around his cerulean eyes.
This made me laugh. I never laughed. I explained that I had no intent on murdering him – that it would make a difference – but rather, exposing him to my morbid hobby. Then I danced the pleasantly jagged tip of the untouched knife around my bedspread absently, awaiting a response from those rose petal lips.
Kenny, however, was not a boy of many words, unless vulgar. Instead, he answered with his supple hands. They extended on skeletal hinges and eased the blade from my own eager members. Then, right before my hungry eyes, he stole its virginity, penetrating the immaculate, milky skin of his forearm. A luscious liquid dominated the abyss he had drawn, crawling down a smooth landscape to the hollows of his gaunt elbows.
My voice deserted me, going down my esophagus in a revolting bubble of bile and rinsing the frail lining in acid.
An aroma came about, nothing like the coppery smell mine birthed. It was his blood, I realized. And, oh yes, did he bleed. Oh how he bled. Such a powerful scent triggered a flood of amylase behind my trembling jaw. I longed for his delightful crimson nectar to belong to me.
His eyes pierced me so that I didn't even have to ask. He was a natural-born loyalist to my king, and knew his place in my domain.
With his sacrifice and our stained jester between us, he matched my cunning smile on lips already wet with bloodlust. What a pair we would make.
Kenny was born fearless.
The odds were well stacked in his favor. Incapable of death, he was free to explore the ink of his story, aside every bullet that sped through him, aside every train that plowed over his fair-haired corpse. Before I too gave into the blade, I feared treading beyond the script. I feared the blank page and the cosmic oblivion of Earth.
But you cannot play hero to a sidekick valiant as Kenny. And with every parasitic gash we hacked into ourselves, we voyaged further from the paragraph, until the only way we were to be found was the drying trail of red splatters we left behind.
I did not consider him a friend. You learn from the blade to trust no one. So I did not trust that flaxen vampire.
Together, we indulged in the darker side of life. With my body as my canvas, I began to unleash my demented thoughts on the virgin skin. Words that I could never say. Crosses (so appropriate for a sinner of unclean blood.) Names that I would someday carve into headstones. And swastikas. So many of Satan's hooked slashes that my stomach took the appearance of a chain link fence assembled in scar tissue.
Kenny used his scarlet ink in similar manners, though his preferred drawing was a teardrop. Sheets of them rained across his soft arms, the spiny arc of his back, each with a slightly polluted quality to them.
We sketched on each other where we could not reach. So many nights we spent seated on the dusty floor of the dragon's den, swabbing off the blade and expertly tattooing unhealthy designs into searing muscle. It was wrong, we knew. But you do not argue with a woman, just as you do not argue with your knife. You are a servant to Lucifer. The darkness resides in your blood. You must purge it away.
My knife was a hungry sapient. However, some days, we would reach equinoctial points in our mundane carving jobs, and investigated further into the margins. Alcohol was introduced into our relationship at the tender age of fifteen. She was a biting mistress, but we learned to consume her callous spite properly.
Kenny always held down her tempest's wrath well, while I would blubber like the brute lush I was. Alcohol was nature's thorn. It did not mix well with my own toxins. Each night we resorted to the crystalline crafts, my gluttonous raving spawned a side of me the world was not meant to see. He tolerated the tantrums I threw, every hateful slew of remarks I strung together, every time I would curse God, my life, and this whole goddamned world. He'd sit in the corner's opaque veil, knobby knees drawn to his chin, and watch through vacant eyes of broken aqua glass, often in nothing but his boxers.
I remember how skinny he was. It didn't help that his stomach was emptier than his pockets. But it must be draining to constantly deplete yourself of your heart's harvest. Of course, then, I didn't look at it like that.
His eyes scared me. I refused to meet their desolate gaze.
For months afterwards, if we did not arrive to school with all of the blood left in our tortured cores pulsing through webs in our eyes…then we did not arrive to school at all. Such behavior was met with consequences and threats that fell on deaf ears. The adults we'd long exiled from our lives used medieval, arid sand traps that were promptly ignored through a quick nip at Grey Goose.
However, the harsh booze was made lesser by the fabulous venue of smoking. Like a fool, the first time I drew the invigorating ivory smoke into my lungs, I expelled it and hunched over the frozen school gate, hacking violently. Kenny merely laughed at my idiocy, and placed the death stick to his bruised lips, his spindly fingers cinched skillfully around the paper shaft. As far as nicotine dependency went, he had all but mastered it.
However, after spluttering my way through three complete poisonous pipes, I was finally able to inhale a cigarette's delicious fumes to the full extent. Kenny sensed the presence of my white flag, and yielded accordingly. We would seat ourselves on an iced-over fence outside of town and go through Camel after Camel until the sun splintered into the twilight. Our uniforms for that routine kept us nuanced equally with the surrounding dark. Boiling blood pounded inside of us against the prison of bones and tendons as we grilled it under the supervision of our nicotine chef. Our lungs withered and our hearts blackened. We ignored it all.
We would only cleanse the infected plasma away, anyways.
On the days we did go, we'd trudge through the school gate tousled and sleepless. Our hippie and Jew darlings took delight in spinning their ugly chords to nasty accusations. They were pious souls, and no longer in alliance with us. Their business was no longer of my concern. Whether their doings were as sadistic and inhuman as ours held little interest to our unflinching eyes. The true reality of things was kept at a blissful distance. We sealed our tapering throats against that filthy smog. Thus, true friends to dearest Kenny and I were a dying species. The only one of our classmates who ever showed genuine tolerance was Butters Stotch, a pliable caramel chew that neither of us ever had a taste for. But Butters' uncalled-for affections were nothing one mouth or another had flexed about around campus.
Still. I would not call Kenny my friend.
Sixteen is a landmark in teenage sagacity, I discovered.
At sixteen, you unwittingly become a tightrope walker on a widening crevice. Eventually, you will choose a side. And whichever side you choose, will be where you stand. Congratulations. You are an adult.
At sixteen, you also know a thing or two. Kyle knew that he'd away to Denver for law school to satisfy his lawyer daddy and pretentious momma. Stan knew that his wrists were starving, but could not allow it to show through his eccentric compulsion with long sleeves. Craig knew that monotonous life as a pragmatist suited him well. Clyde knew the crotch of each cheerleader personally.
Kenny knew the location of every vein and artery.
And I knew that, if I didn't die by a dagger's edge, I would find a way.
Through a beast, we found beauty.
Before we boldly braced with the portion of life's spectrum where few dared to tread, we were united in vague ways. Like two balloons hopelessly adrift, anchored to one another. There was one blemish on him, though, that no one was able to mirror on their own selves.
He did not entirely understand the monster inside, either. I take it that was what began his perverse deficiency, though, alas, not all viruses can be flushed out. So you learn to live with them.
Kenny did not live with his disease at all. More than once, he would plunge my knife too deeply, the hunger still evident on his manic face as sapphires turned to granite and the ice lost its fire. And when every fragment of him was roughly reassembled the next morning, I would ask. He fed me well, satiating a new want that's feeble fibers would inevitably disentangle through careful preening.
The biggest difference between us dawned on me then. So many times Kenny and I would wrong together, screaming and thrashing and eradicating ourselves, did the borders fall:
He cut to start fresh in the morning. I cut to rot in the ground.
Scars held an unquenchable thirst and fascination with us.
The bottles were emptying quickly in those Babylon days, the elysian suns of our shadows. The cigarettes tasted dry. So we returned to my knife. She welcomed us with open arms, herding us to her sharp skull without batting a gray eye.
Our practices took up a vampiric aspect. Once we were good and slit, we would blow on the lesions and marvel at the cotton candy swirls left behind. My spitfire jewel liked to explore mine, tasting along the mars that loosely held my ragged person together. Sometimes, he could not even wait for them to dry, and lapped away at the putrid lead that escaped. He would leave his own marks on my neck, nibbling on the tender flesh until there was a collar of bruises.
At first, Kenny was on a tight rein and within my supposed comfort zone. Little did he know that I never possessed such a thing. I could care less about what happened to me, whether sexual or not. His oddly lustful behavior raised questions every now and then, but I took no mind to it. It's easier to ignore a tumor then to square with it, so that's just what I did. Like everything else in my fucked-up world, I turned a blind eye to a somber reality.
Once, though, his forked tongue was able to continue along its own path and ended up brushing mine. And I did not protest or push him away. Instead, I tasted my bitter blood in his mouth. How he pined after such a foul-tasting essence, I hadn't the slightest clue.
That night, I remember, we'd drained the scathing havens of his parents' liquor cabinet. The mordant liquid sloshed in our stomachs and coursed through our freshly relieved blood streams. Venom and crimson permeated across our battered forearms as we roped each other in. Not long after, with so many different flavors from him on my throbbing tongue, he gave me the greatest pain I had ever experienced. I screamed and cursed more in that incredible forty-five minutes than I had in my entire life. The blade had stolen my voice long ago. But he gave me a new one, a breathless baritone that, when not sputtering his name out in broken syllables, gathered a sycophancy of filthy words that illustrated our shared sin.
We breached, exhausted, and drenched in warm blood and cold sweat. His abused heartbeat cracked through his chest against mine, sending a euphoric reverb throughout me. I clutched to him until my beautiful blond shriveled under his saline coat. I felt along every ridge of his plighted being, until I too drifted asleep.
He had never been my friend before. But that night, I was afraid of what he was consequently turning into.
After that, the needle drew dangerously south.
As time passed, the scars stitched across my torso slowly unraveled as I came undone. In turn, I became a slave to my knife. My sweet, sweet princess. It was a second favorite to my Kenny angel. Each sitting, though, pitched me further into the belly of the beast. I was no longer crying for blood. I was crying for release.
In my mirror, the oscillating, revolting likeness of me had become unrecognizable. Cutting had replaced me to its inclination with a boy of brittle blood and eyes that caged death. My venom was thicker, harder to wring through each tired layer of muscle tissue. Kenny would sometimes coax it free with his mouth, and I would allow it. Anything to keep me raw and hurting. Anything.
I had sacrificed more blood and agony to him that I had ever sacrificed to the blade.
He began to use the tongue in his delirious head on me instead of the razor tongue of my knife. We forgot the prosaic whittling games, and focused much more of our lingering energy on freeing the heavy blood from our crippling vessels. I approved of this. I did not, however, approve of him brushing his filthy incisors against me, or his carnation lips whispering sweet-nothings into my bared ear with that haunting language of his. I feared not only for his safety, but for my own. I did want to risk contracting whatever ailment flowed in him. He was a sick, sick boy. Not a morsel of nourishment had entered him in many months, but still, he was bloated and engorged with a greed for prized flesh.
The break in our self-written paragraph, however, was harshly inked across the page one evening of our sixteenth November. I had been out in the kitchen, bracing my weary self against the marble countertop. So many years of abuse had split the meat right from my dying bones. What was once a powerful, loping football quarterback now stood as a feeble plague of a person. I was repulsive.
For whatever reason, I stood at the counter, chained by vapors of frost streaming through the open window. A bottle of Jim Beam Black bowed respectfully before me. I would not touch that aberrant thing.
Then Kenny arrived, a vinyl-tight tank top stretched across his growling stomach to his unfed thighs. His briefs might've fit two tennis balls. The trite skin that fitted tightly to each bone was only graced by diminishing pink comets. A mesh of purple-blue veins netted across his colorless legs. He was deathly skinny, only vaguely nourished by blood, strife, and the poison that threatened to destroy what remained of him.
Paler than the moon outside, he managed to shut the window without collapsing into the stainless steel basin of the sink. He staggered briefly, swiping the Jim Beam to the grimy tile floor. We ignored the shatter of glass and minor splatter on our wraithlike legs.
Three years ago, we'd begun sharing the same bed.
Kenny did not move at first. Each tick of the clock hoisted on the wall exploded like a bomb. I think I flinched at one point. Until, with serpent-strike speed, his hand – the color of ash sprinkled over a grave – flashed out and knitted into mine. This was not permitted, and instantly solidified my fickle backbone. He did an even stranger thing then: his lean fingers, sunbaked and unwashed, gently caressed mine in lighter-than-air strokes. The calloused skin was oddly soothing. He held his eyes from me, but I knew: he was not drunk.
In a frightening requiem, he muttered that I'd always had such beautiful hands.
For reasons I cannot understand, I allowed our stares to bolt together. I could not place what swam in the luscious azure ocean. Emotion was tossed by the foam spray of his sclera, while a menacing leviathan lurked in the subterranean trench of his pupils. Not an ounce of pollution grazed the gentle sea.
My eyes, unworthy nimbi of beaten leather, couldn't hold in such a presence. Turning away from the godly face, I asked him to leave. And he did. Kenny was my most well-disciplined partisan. Without another heavenly word, he and his hand receded away, leaving me with only a phantom presence in place of my blond.
I should've gone after him.
For seven months, I never left that kitchen.
There would be nights when my mother was out, charging men a week's salary for paltry performances that I was untouched by, when I would stand in the exact same spot he had. I would drink until even my scars shrank, and slip into the merciful blackness. I would run my knife across my scorned tongue, longing for one last taste of him. In archaic dialects, I continued to disparage under the crossfire of a gaping black inferno. I would turn my gun's barrel toward the window where he'd last left his cherished oil, and screech at the diamond sky to return my Kenny. Give me a reason to live.
My drunken ravings returned no more than an occasional cat's tortured yowl, or the verve of a cricket's song.
I would soon be wishing for a real gun's barrel, loaded and suspended in my own.
The receding tide was returning to shore, and its backlash was sobering. It was only with him gone did I truly understand what I had done. The notches had run out. Not once in those seven months of hell did I ever draw out my anguished blood from its hollow shell. The ocean rang in the cavity, the ocean of Kenny's blue, blue eyes.
I passed out every night praying that I would never reawake. Sometimes, it seemed, I was already asleep, trapped deep into my own domestic nightmare.
By forcing all of the darkness out, I was now drowning alone in the cold, black sea.
Unfortunately, Mother was home early that evening.
It was the first night of my seventeenth year. She bid me goodbye, and left without expecting a reply that would never come. I did not watch her go. It was all ready. At the stutter of the front door closing, I raised my crystal glass and growled out his name. Then I downed the liquid fatality and waited with meticulous patience.
Around eight PM did the true buzz hit. It was volatile and elating. But still, in my delirium, I was clearly able to distinguish a lovely glint of silver against the cataclysm of color. How inviting that spangle was, a delicious delusion that I simply could not deny. My abused knees gave way to new air, and I clumsily shattered it as I retrieved my knife. Even placed against my inept fingers, it felt so warm. So right. The blade gleamed, as hungry for blood as I was. Its spotless surface begged to be tarnished by my crimson sin. And who was I to refuse it? I'd chosen to cater to this viper.
Inside, the turmoil hitched, and my valves tightened at the impending siege. I was not aware I could feel this. It was exhilarating, reuniting with that knife again after too long apart. The steel was poised to slit right through the vacillating line between life and death.
Briefly, my mind flashed to Kenny. No. I had been emptied. Completely. I was not a person. I was a vessel, hollowed and hardened inside. I had no mind. No soul. No body. Nothing to give and nothing to call my own. Even the blood contained within was not mine to keep. The knife felt like a stone in my palm, demanding to claim what was rightfully its.
Heat bubbled where I touched the metal to my skin. A white-hot nuclear blast imploded somewhere above, blowing what was left of common sense to oblivion. All that remained was a chilling whisper that flowed freely through my boiling lips.
The delicate barrier tempered at the hellion's blistering mercy. Dark flames gathered and screamed for freedom.
Jerking my elbow, I tainted the ground below. Before the deep dark, I remember one color: red. So much red, vibrant and pulsating. It was red from my own doing, red of a filthy and treacherous entity. Before, it had made me feel so alive to watch it filter away. Now, I was feeling horribly rotten and dead inside.
The paramedics said I'd come within an inch of my ulnar artery, whatever that is.
Red. So, so much red.
As you journey to death, you are supposed to see visions of your life.
But I saw nothing. Nothing at all, until the emptiness fractured and stripped away from me, giving way to a sensitive new coat of skin. It screamed as piercing light tore into it, and I was flooded with a liquid gold, pumped so forcefully into my veins that they ignited.
The most prominent pain, though, was in my arm. I didn't remember it being there before. I only remembered the red. And a new color: blue. An aquatic blue, the blue of the cloudless sky I was now faced with.
From the Atlantic, a single droplet of water sprang and landed on me.
A strange thing occurred to me during my hospitalization.
I had never thanked Stan.
In school, some long time ago, he had told me to hunt with my knife. He should've specified what. Then maybe I wouldn't have poached upon my own body until I wound up on a reservation.
Suicide is such a twisted thing. The cruelest irony, however, is that nobody asks how nauseating it can be to recover from the void. They ask, "Oh, what happened?" But no one asks what it's like after, when you wake up in the hospital all patched up with zero recollection of how'd you'd gotten there and your best friend hunched over the bed sobbing into the marred undersides of his wrists. No one will ask about what truly matters.
It was hot in that hospital room. And I lay strapped to a sterile bed with the heat draped over my ragged form for an unrelenting five days. Kenny spent it with me.
After I was finally able to locate a voice in my wounded throat, I demanded to know why in the hell he was wearing his parka. The mercury in the thermometer had spiked, and yet he sat like an orange effigy in the pit of it. His hood was drawn tightly when I finally wheedled him out from his cave. A moment slinked past, wavering and sizzling.
Then he showed me his face.
This was not my Kenny. He was a stranger in clothing that did not belong to him. That face, that broken, sugar-white face reflecting a savage and unfathomable past, was not Kenny's. And that hair, matted and damaged from near-constant war, was not his. And those eyes, cold blue caverns swollen with tears…were not his. My head swam. Stop this. I can't see you. I am a vessel.
…He is my best friend.
A delicate porcelain doll hidden by a deceitfully glossy lacquer, I had stripped the wings off this imperfect angel and cut him deeper than any knife. The hood was a masquerade and denial to me. I was not allowed to see the product of my own selfish cleanse.
He took the wretched sight from me after the proper dose of pain had been administered. For a moment, his split lips appeared in a grim line of victory. But a single teardrop seeped into the crevice, followed by another. This one I traced to his chin, where it pooled and broke off.
It never reached the ground, it was that damn hot in there.
Inexplicably, I accessed the capacity of feeling as I lulled in the biting flame. "I'm sorry, Kenny." Each syllable ripped my throat open. But my feeble apology, which cried out to be matched by a reassurance of some sort, murmured to the pound of my serrated heartbeat. I watched it smolder, defeated by the silence.
A foreign wetness soon activated in the corners of my eyes at the devastatingly pretty smile he at last returned to me; this too was dissolved, along with the glaze of my corneas.
I should've never cut in June, when the demon's heat destroyed the tears Kenny cried over me.
I should've never cut.
There are many ways to lie.
Kenny and I spent years dedicating our diminishing spirits to it. We buried our remains as far away from school as we could. If our parents spared a moment from their selfish lives to ask questions, we would invent half-assed stories about where we'd been under breath reeking of alcohol and disobedience. If our peers prodded enough, we'd defend our annihilated territory in petty militia. And all of them knew better than to offer any dissonance. Kenny and I were long lost to the nightmares we'd sealed ourselves into. It was too late to salvage anything. The only home we had left was the unforgiving chasm of Hell.
One mistake I'd made was jumping; but my biggest slip – as well as the only accomplishment of my corrupt adolescence – was looking him in the eye that night. I had never looked him fully in the face. Ever. Not even when he drove into me and burbled a drunken lust.
Through his eyes, I saw it all. Beneath the cerulean uproar, there lay a twisted world of screaming souls and broken promises. I saw all of the atrocity I had attributed to such a divine child, my Kenny, my grace, my best friend. He had lied not only to enemy lines…he'd lied to me.
Guilt sat like a rancid vat of acid in my gut. It had left me with a nice, stinging slap across the face, a haunting silhouette of the boy I once thought I knew, and new demons sitting behind my ribs…waiting.
As he was with mine, I was well-acquainted with Kenny's scars, too.
Hundreds of them, crosshatching all across him in an impossible conundrum. Any attempt to connect them was lost in the maze of his ribs or saucers of his hips. Most were the entire blade's worth. He always bled nicer than I did, too. All of those nights we passed my knife between us and shredded up our skin to the tune of dark thoughts, I watched in sick fascination as beautiful burgundy oozed from his fresh rips thickly. Meanwhile, mine did not follow the path that was laid down for it. My cuts stained outside the lines. They leaked unruly scarlet.
Kenny's eyes shed a liquid like unfiltered holy water.
In the hospital room, he earned new wounds. Mine were measured by the erratic beep of the monitor latched to my bruised heart. Each chime raised the battered walls up to their razor cage and slashed a new hole.
It happened too many times. Too many times to count.
At last, the searing in my thrashed arms lost its potency. It climbed out from my tendons and coursed to every available vacancy.
When you cut, a prickle travels across your scalp and weaves through the nooks and crannies in a luxurious silk thread. Then the concentrated ache drops to your toes and leaves you with a morbid sense of giddiness.
But all I could feel at that moment was raw pain. It was hurting. It really, really was.
I was released on a landslide of restrictions and threats. They wanted to ship me off to a mental hospital. They wanted my head full of lies, not destructive desires. They wanted my veins gripping around drug streams designed to barricade my blood inside of them.
And Kenny, the devious diamond, refused them.
In his murky trachea, he delivered tawdry offerings bathed in honey. They washed over willing ears, which accepted the words dressed up so beautifully. Sprang forth from such a gorgeous boy, no one could see the true intent carved all over his wraith blue orbs. They saw an orange coat and innocent face. A result of my "better" teachings.
It was too bright and hot out there. I do not recall much during the car ride home, only that Kenny guarded his melody and never once took his eyes from the road. Mirages swam across the pavement and faded stop signs signaled sluggish pauses. He took the long way home, I believe. Plowed over a couple kids and clipped some squad cars – it's all a blur. Like my childhood.
But Kenny didn't speak. This I knew.
My mother did. She announced to the world what I had done. She flung her fragrant arms around me the moment I entered that house and, amidst her incoherent babbling, reminded me of what I'd done. Spindly fingers pushed through my matted locks and undid the mess. My shattered brain was unable to offer any resistance to my muscles. I heard Mom's chants through a cacophony of sobs, that I was okay, I was alright, everything was fine now.
She was almost a good a liar as Kenny and I, for none of what she'd spluttered was the truth. Her squabbling could not drown the inward screaming. Almost against my will, I longed to mount the bathtub and rest in a cradle of purified water, the newest designs turned up where they could not sew themselves back together. The battle raged on. Soldiers buffeted on me until only the fragile fray remained.
Others, innocent like my Kenny gem once was, were there, unable to sum up anything but Teleprompter apologies, falsehoods, and comfort. All the while, their unbroken eyes shifted around for a distraction. Their hands hesitated over my shoulders, as if psychical contact would contaminate them, too. I rested, still as a rotting log, on the couch while they passed by. None of them truly touched, spoke, or looked at me. I was an abomination in the house of God, I knew. My spilt blood glowed at the foot of the altar. Only my mother could, and Kenny, who miraculously allowed his thighs to sit flush with mine. When Stan and Kyle were put on the spot, they shot him panicked glances from emerald and sapphire weapons. His frozen fairy's eyes remained affixed to the back wall. He would not see them, or me, or anyone in that godforsaken shithole.
When visiting hours ended, Mother sent me straight off to bed. I almost refused her; it was far too late to be accepting her belated role as mother of me. I'd given her plenty of time to do that, but she'd donned the adversary's colors night after night. And anyways, who would want to grovel to a wavering ghost like myself, I wondered.
But that was the very irony that forced me to obey. Because, rising from the couch's velvet cushions, Kenny trailed me to my bedroom in the form of an indistinct phantasm. Horrible, iniquitous memories scorched my eyelids at how similar this encounter was to the very first. And I nearly gave out when nymphs danced images of my mottled advocate to me.
Silently, he slid under the covers with me. My other intensifying want aside, I longed to reach out and have the feel of him on my aching fingertips. But I could not harm this child again. I descended into the mattress, unmoving, until a sinuous arm sprawled across me as far as it dared. Little pinpricks spread not long after this began. They hiked up my leg, singing to the unforgiving black cyclone in my head. I listened. I listened to the mantra ebb and flow through piercing volumes that, after a crescendo too many, could no longer be ignored.
I knew it, and so did he: I was going to end it.
That very same night, I disposed of my knife.
Flames licked across his beautiful face when I awoke him from his disturbed slumber. Training one eye after me, Kenny watched vigilantly as I crossed to my dresser and slid open the top draw. Right where it should've been, my master flashed hello in silver tongues. No doubt Mother had returned it, oblivious to the fact that this succubus was the devil mercenary with whom her only son had nearly pilfered his own life and that of his best friend.
I've hated myself, and even Kenny for a brief time, but nothing could compare to the passionate hatred I felt toward that knife and my mother.
I retrieved the mamba while Kenny was floored stone-cold against my bed. I was able to momentarily restore the light in his dead aquamarine eyes by showing him the beast that had started it all. He rose up, suddenly very much alive, and hurtling in a snarling fit of rage toward me. His teeth were bared in an animalistic fashion, his irises flashing like the warning beam of a lighthouse. He wanted the thing gone.
Wordlessly and without waking my scandalous mother, we hauled ourselves out to the car. For once, I frowned upon the materialistic vehicle. It only served as a badge to my selfish image; how the world truly saw me. My middle rose with the tension. By the end of that night, it would be gone, too. Everything would be gone. For once in my life, I would be free. Truly free, not just by insidious acts that I had all but passed to my Kenny.
We drove. How far, I don't know. Flashes of light continuously passed over us through the hours, never lingering for too long. Other cars, ships to far cleaner beings, moved beyond the windows. I drove, though. I drove and drove and drove until there was nowhere else to drive to. Gently squeezing the brakes, Kenny and I exited. We were atop a hill that was in the middle of No Man's Land. A befitting home for us.
Sheets of newspaper drifted by, eventually pinning against a decaying wooden fence. His bare feet carried him toward the litter. Transferring them one by one to his gloved hands, Kenny fashioned some sort of pagoda, set the ferry alight with his lighter, and laid it flat on the ground. He didn't have to ask. I was well away of our purpose there – the only worthwhile thing we would ever do.
However, as my hand skidded out of my pocket, I balked. It would be such a rush for steel to enter my flesh just one more time, going so deep that it scraped my withered bones. Thankfully, I was unable to provide to an unholy god. Perhaps perceiving a waver in my resolve, Kenny issued a silent warning. Before, his eyes would not touch me. Now I wished they would release their vice-liked grip on me. I wanted to run and bleed and plead for the grave. Penance, deliverance, peace…for the raging pulse inside of me to stop.
I knew damn well what he wanted, too. The conflict danced in his rugged turquoise eyes.
When you're frozen for so long, the possibility of thawing seems galaxies away. Even the heat of the hospital room could not unbuckle the ice from my body. But this was something that had to be done. The cretin, once a promising affair, was over. So, with his warm hand sloped at my back, I pinched the black hilt between my trembling fingers. They had never been nimble, like his, which began to stroke small circles on my shoulder. A chip of ice disintegrated beneath the sweet friction.
His eyes never left me. Not once. Even when I was David defeating Goliath, even when I stormed the monster's den and trapped inside the towering inferno, Kenny did not look away. He did not flinch or speak or blink. Kenny had always been such a beautiful, loyal pet. I had changed that, though. As the fire bit into my knife and saturated the newspaper bedding below to hoary silver, he stood at my rear and watched with soulless eyes. Steel burns so slowly. But, cremated, my spirit was finally freed from its metal coffin. It drifted above the pyre.
I made no attempt to retrieve it.
After fifteen juts of the minute hand, my tourniquet had finally bled out. The flames died around the tempered blue blade, and wind carried the smoke away before the scent of blood reached me. Ice stayed root on me, though. I would not be thawed by any such fire.
The heat at my back was suddenly enveloping me as I had just done to the knife. I can't say that I expected him to hug me. Whatever innocence Kenny had scavenged, he lost it then. He lost everything and attacked me with it, offering it to me. I did not deserve that, but, still, I dared to touch back. My legs wobbled under his 109 pounds. I forced them to hold.
Somewhere between the hollow of my neck and my shoulder, I felt his sweet breath hiss out against me. In a low whimper, he asked that we never cut again.
There was nothing in his words. Nothing but the lingering ghost of an abandoned child. Emotion, the likes of which I had never encountered, punctured me. It blurred the lines I had drawn on myself and unchained my spirit. For the first time, I was overcome with a sense of liberty. I was footloose and freethinking. I was fucking free.
With his cheek nestled against my chest and his quivering body in my arms, I brought a hand up to slope over the crown of his head. Swiftly, I uncovered the crown's jewels. He allowed me to handle the gold. I ran my putrid sinner's hands through his halo, smoothing each golden wheat stalk with the grain. The luscious caramel formed gentle ripples under my clumsy touch. I was sure to be slow with my movements in fear of disturbing him. My blond was so small in my shadow.
I did this for the longest time. Not once did Kenny mention my beautiful hands. He stood, content that I was finally able to touch him and cause no further damage. I stroked his hair before whispering softly into the blond spring. And it all dismounted. The train tracks on my arms led to hands caressing the curve of an orange coat. Below, a pattern of disoriented lines lived. They untangled and guided toward my fingertips.
Our maps were finally leading us home.
Kenny and I never returned to South Park.
It was for the best. Our parents would mourn us for a few weeks before moving on with the rest of the town. We have nothing left there except deserted memories that we do not wish to relive. It's only a matter of time before those too forget us and latch onto another victim. Let them. I no longer worry about it. I have no reason to.
This new town is nice – smaller, but the feel of it is much better. New. Free. My favorite flavors.
Besides Kenny, of course.
Who needed South Park, when everything you needed was in that glowing sentinel boy? You'll spend so much time wondering why he loved you when nobody else had the time or inclination to do so. Then you'll realize that there's no reason, only that he saw the good in you even when you could not, that he was able to enter the dark and return you to the light. And then you'll realize that maybe the light isn't so bad after all, and make a permanent home with him there.
And you'll know that he was the only thing you were ever able to truly call yours. And, for that – for everything – you'll love him. I promise.