It was that summer, too, that I began the cutting, and was almost as devoted to it as to my newfound loveliness. I adored tending to myself, wiping a shallow red pool of my blood away with a damp washcloth to magically reveal, just above my naval: queasy. Applying alcohol with dabs of a cotton ball, wispy shreds sticking to the bloody lines of: perky. I had a dirty streak my senior year, which I later rectified. A few quick cuts and cunt becomes can’t, cock turns into back, clit transforms to a very unlikely cat, the l and i turned into a teetering capital A. The last words I ever carved into myself, sixteen years after I started: vanish. Sometimes I can hear the words squabbling at each other across my body. Up on my shoulder, panty calling down to cherry on the inside of my right ankle. On the underside of a big toe, sew uttering muffled threats to baby, just under my left breast. I can quiet them down by thinking of vanish, always hushed and regal, lording over the other words from the safety of the nape of my neck. Also: At the center of my back, which was too difficult to reach, is a circle of perfect skin the size of a fist. Over the years I’ve made my own private jokes. You can really read me. Do you want me to spell it out for you? I’ve certainly given myself a life sentence. Funny, right? I can’t stand to look myself without being completely covered. Someday I may visit a surgeon, see what can be done to smooth me, but now I couldn’t bear the reaction. Instead I drink so I don’t think too much about what I’ve done to my body and so I don’t do any more. Yet most of the time that I’m awake, I want to cut. Not small words either. Equivocate. Inarticulate. Duplicitous. At my hospital back in Illinois they would not approve of this craving.For those who need a name, there’s a gift basket of medical terms. All I know is that the cutting made me feel safe. It was proof. Thoughts and words, captured where I could see them and track them. The truth, stinging, on my skin, in a freakish shorthand. Tell me you’re going to the doctor, and I’ll want to cut worrisome on my arm. Say you’ve fallen in love and I buzz the outlines of tragic over my breast. I hadn’t necessarily wanted to be cured. But I was out of places to write, slicing myself between my toes – bad, cry – like a junkie looking for one last vein. Vanish did it for me. I’d saved the neck, such a nice prime spot, for one final good cutting. Then I turned myself in.