“You were good,” he says. He takes the piece of flesh that he removed from my upper left thigh and places it into a plastic bag that is then tied shut with a rubber band. During the entire process, he didn’t get a drop of blood on him. He kept himself covered with a long-sleeve shirt and sweatpants; surgical gloves on his hands for extra precaution. It is easy to tell that he prefers an orderly life, as everything about him is sculpted to a level of perfection.
“It didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would,” I reply. While he has his back turned, I gently feel the sutures in my leg and think about how deep the scar will be. He didn’t put enough numbing cream on before he began to cut, so this one hurts more than the other. I look at the refrigerator next to his bed. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a man from what his fridge looks like. One man had a fridge, obviously second-hand, and it made loud whirring noises as if it was on the verge of collapsing. He also used a knife that was used earlier in the night when he made us dinner, instead of the standard scalpel. I met him at a dive bar.
However, the fridge that I am looking at now is a newer version; small and black with a sleek coating that creates a mirror to look at yourself in. He has money. It might explain why this man could afford the sterilized packages of disposable scalpels from medical-grade suppliers.
“So, when did you get your first fridge?” I ask.
“When I was 17.”
“17? That’s young. How did you know you were ready?”
He chuckles softly to himself, “Yeah, well, that’s when my old man decided I would be ready. I came home from school one day and found one next to my bed. Everything was already set up. He never explained what it was for, we never talked about those things, ya know? He did give me an instructional manual on the process though. Everything I know now was basically self-taught.”
“Hm. That’s interesting. You seem to know what you’re doing…It’s all so…Organized.”
“I’m sorry, but how do you spell your name again?” He asks, disregarding my statement, his back still turned away from me. “I need to know so that I spell it right on the label.”
“Kara. K-A-R-A.” Something in my mind tells me that he probably forgot my name because none of the men before him had ever labeled their bags, but I decide to let it pass because he seems to do things differently.
He scribbles my name on the label with a black marker. My name sounds soft when someone says it, but the way he wrote it down makes it look harsh and jagged. He swiftly places the baggie into the small fridge. I can hear him shifting other bags around to make room for it. He closes the door and punches the security code in the panel of numbers. As he does this, I continue to pick at my stitches, they’re beginning to burn with irritation. When I lift my hand up to examine it, I see blood on my fingertips. It looks light—there’s not too much— but still enough to be worrisome.
“First time?” he asks. I snap my head in his direction and quickly put my hand behind my back. But it’s too late, he had already seen me looking. Shamefully, I wipe my fingers off on the thin cotton towel that he had placed underneath me before he started cutting.
“No, this isn’t my first time doing this. But I’m just worried because there’s still some blood.”
“This isn’t your first time? Damn. I didn’t see any of your other scars. Where are they?” He has his eyes fixated on me, and the corners of his mouth are drawn downwards to create a small pout.
“Listen,” I say back, “does it matter? I mean it’s still bleeding, I don’t think you closed it all the way.”
He doesn’t hear me. Instead, he starts to snake his fingers around my left wrist and lifts my arm up and begins to inspect it. He holds it close to his face and I can feel the traces of his breath as he carefully looks at my skin, inch by inch. All I can do is lie there and wait for him to discover the other ones. He starts to take his fingers and stroke them across my skin, in case he can’t see them, but maybe he can feel them. When he gets to my armpit, I can’t remember if I’ve shaved them before I came over.
“Can I just show you where they are?” I ask, hoping that if I give him what he wants, he will stop.
He looks at me again and scratches his beard. After pondering, he says, “Sure. I guess it’s getting late. I have to work tomorrow; we can’t be here all night.”
Slowly, I lift myself up. He remains seated on the side of the bed and rests his head in his hand. When I stretch my leg out to stand, my thigh begins to scream in agony. It quivers uncontrollably, and I grasp it with my hand to try and stabilize it. Despite my efforts, my leg caves in and I’m forced to lean against his back wall to remain standing. He stays still, his labored breathing filling the room like a metronome before a recital. The audience awaits.
I untie my robe and show him my stomach, where a row of scars has been created by other men. Each one measures about an inch long and starkly contrasts my pale skin. He approaches me and pushes his finger into each scar. His hands are small compared to the rest of his body—it throws me off guard. In fact, as I look closer, I notice many flaws that are littered throughout his meticulously sculpted appearance. Like how his dark hair is slicked with his body’s natural oils that smell like salted butter. Where his eyebrows are manicured, I can see the shadow of the incoming hairs that are fighting to grow back. The tip of his nose droops heavily where it meets the cupid’s bow of his lips that are pulled downward by the density of his beard. He mouths numbers as he quietly counts. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. On the last one, he pushes a little harder, testing its depth. He puts his forehead on my stomach and sighs deeply. When the air exits his nostrils, it travels from the skin on my stomach to just below my panty line. My body forms goosebumps that raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
Without looking up, he asks, “Six?”
The goosebumps retreat. My thigh pulsates, the pain has become so unbearable that it is nauseating. My stomach clenches while my palms are so clammy they begin to slide down the wall I am using to support myself. I fall back onto the bed and sit there with my head in between my knees.
“Why didn’t you tell me that you had that many?” He demands.
A thick coat of saliva covers my mouth, making my tongue too slippery to talk. From what I understand, your body coats your teeth with saliva before you vomit so that the acid doesn’t ruin your enamel. He puts his hands on my knees and pulls himself forward so that I am forced to look at him.
“I just…I just wanted you to like me,” is all I manage to say.
“Six though? Do you realize how many that is? It’s higher than the fucking average, Jesus.”
“Why does it matter?” I spit back. “They’re small, and insignificant. Yours is so deep that the cut is still bleeding.”
He clenches his jaw and flares his nostrils. He knows I’m right, and I’m hoping that my reasoning can change his attitude. Instead, he digs his fingertips into my knees and pushes his palms inwards so that the entirety of his weight is forced upon me. My skin turns white where the circulation is getting cut off. Blood starts to seep out from the stitches on my thigh, leaving a stain on his sheets. After a few moments, he lets go and goes back to his fridge. He punches the six-digit code back in and throws the door open. I can hear him sift through the various bags until he finds the one with my name.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
He remains silent as he rips the bag open and pulls out the piece of skin that had been excised. He stands there for a moment with it pinched between his fingers, and I feel the blood pumping through it as if it had never been taken from me. With heavy footsteps, he walks into the bathroom, where I hear him drop the piece into the toilet and flush it down. My eyes swell with tears, and fear consumes me from within. He walks back over and throws my clothes at me.
“Get out,” He says. “Get the fuck out of here, and don’t ever come back.”
“I don’t understand,” I say, “Why would you do that?”
“Your body is something to be savored. You let these men cut you… This many times? For what?” He says through teeth, “You don’t even have anything to show for it. Pathetic.”
Frantically, I slide my clothes back on. I twinge when I have to pull my jeans over the still-bleeding cut on my thigh. Again, I look at the numbing cream and so badly want to grab it and smother myself in it. But I know that it is out of the question now. I can’t stay here any longer. I shove my feet back into my boots and limp through his apartment, vaguely remembering where the door is. All the while I struggle, he follows me without saying a word. I can feel the fury radiating off him; it swallows me.
Eventually I make my way to the door and am forced to let myself out. As soon as I step into the hallway, he slams the door. I flinch when I hear his deadbolt. I wonder what it would take to turn around and ask for forgiveness; what it would take for him to have me again. I press the down button on the elevator and shuffle inside. As I make my way down, I look at my leg. The blood has soaked through my jeans and I can feel it trickling down my leg where it soaks into my sock. My foot rests in a puddle of blood.
As I descend further away from him, I can begin to feel his rage lessen its grasp on me. I stand there and think about how I need to go home and stitch myself back up. I think about how ugly this scar will be. And I think about the other girls still in his fridge. I think about how a piece of me is traveling through the sewers right now, where tiny organisms will eat me until I dissolve into nothing.
Bradey Resulta is a novice writer from Marian University (WI). She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Writing, accompanied by a minor in Culture, Media, and Gender Studies in 2020. She has had her work published in Bramble Literary Magazine. Samples of her creative work can be found in her portfolio: clippings.me/bradey.