By C. Wait

When I was in the sixth grade, I stitched my mouth shut. I took my grandmother’s sewing kit, heated one of the needles until it burned my fingers, and slipped a piece of thread through the tiny eye. I felt the heat of the needle puncturing the flesh on my lips. The contact created wisps of black fog. They flittered, almost like candle smoke, from my mouth and into the still air of the bathroom.

Can you picture it? Picture the blood that spilled in neat lines from my mouth? Picture the skinny white thread that slowly turned red?

The EMTs came and I wanted to tell them just how much it hurt. Not the stitches but my self. My body. My being. I wanted to tell them, but Grandmother kept screaming at me to stop complaining and I’ve been mute ever since.

I really like you. You have soft hair like I remember my parents having. You remind me of them a little. Do you like me, too? I wish you would. I wish I could talk to you but I’m still so mute.

The doctors said stitching my mouth shut was a call for help, that I wanted attention.

I used to stare at the white dotted scars around my lips and wonder what the hell kind of doctors they were. If this was a call for help, how was I to cry out? How to scream? Was I to throw myself from a bridge or hang myself in a closet before I could make them understand?

I still have the scars from the stitches, even ten years later. My body has matured, my hair has grown long but the dots remain. Can you see them? Can you see how they connect and overlap? Can you imagine the pattern they once made? Look closer.

The only way to truly see is to close your eyes.

There. Do you see me now? I am just like you. A pattern of white dotted scars, stitched together by cheap, broken thread, threatening to unravel as soon as the wind changes direction. And how quickly it does. I have stitched my mouth shut one hundred times more but the thread always falls out and only the scars remain.

The thick white dots. The raised lumps and hardened tissue.

I really like you. You wear the same clothes that my parents used to wear. I don’t remember but I have a picture of them. I used to have lots but I burned them all because they kept staring at me even though I knew they were gone.

Because what good are eyes if not for arms to embrace? What good are mouths if not for the words that escape them?

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C. Wait is a born and bred Vermonter who now spends most of her time wandering around in the New York metropolitan area.

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