Tick Marks

One, two, three, four.

Lines up your arm.

Razor blades. Sometimes your own fingernails.

“How can you go outside,” she says, “with those tick marks up your arm?”

I was there when it happened. There when she found out.

Watched as your whole life fell apart in front of you. Even though it wasn’t really falling apart. But you wouldn’t listen to my reassurances and I didn’t expect you to. All I could do was hold you while you cried. So it was all I did.

Heather was there too. “There’s a box up in my room,” you said to her. I looked on, amazed at the calmness in your voice. Amazed at how levelheaded you were in that moment. “I need you to take what’s in it so she doesn’t find it.”

So Heather took the things that were in the box–in a moment of terror you flushed some down the toilet, and I expected them to come back up. Thank god they didn’t.

“Why would you do this?” she asked. “How could you do something like this?”

I remember. She sent us away from the kitchen while she made us breakfast, talking to your aunt and making sure we could hear. “I’m just so disappointed in that girl. I can’t believe it.”

And I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what she was saying, loud enough so that all of us could hear. Meant to shame you, hurt you. Somewhere in me I hoped you couldn’t hear her. But I knew you could.

All I could do was hold you while you cried.

“Come back in here!” she called.

Heather and I looked at each other in horror. I remember, I remember, the look in her eyes. Our uneaten food sitting on the table, our bodies frozen in place. Our ears straining to hear every word.

“I want your laptop, your phone, all of it,” she said. “Don’t bother deleting anything, I’ll find it.”

I tried to choke down my own tears. I was terrified in this moment, terrified for you, terrified for me and for Heather.

So we held you. We held you while you cried, while you felt your entire life crashing down around you. And I tried to tell you, of course, that the world wasn’t over. I had the privilege of being distanced from the situation, of being merely a spectator. All we could do was hold you.

“She’s just doing this because she loves you,” said Heather. I nodded and agree. “Nobody loves you any less.”

And then she said, “You can’t go to the Fall Formal with those tick marks up your arm.”


That was almost a month ago. Things are different now–back to normal. At least, your version of normal. She did let you go to the fall formal after all. And she didn’t even check your computer.


Sometimes Heather and I will see the tick marks on your arm, look at the scars that are fading more and more with every day. And we have the deepest respect for you, the deepest love. The deepest love for every part of you, even the parts that maybe you don’t love.

We’re sorry that it happened, but glad we could be there for you.

Stay strong.



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