Picking at my nails, pulling at the hanging skin, watching my fingers bleed, I think of what might happen tomorrow, next month, in a year, when my mum will die, through old age or some unknown, when I will die. Life is the great unknown; a grey abyss in which my worst fears could come true. What ifs and wondering when eat me from the inside, gluttonously chomping my gut, causing pains in my chest.
“Stop worrying! Enjoy life,” he says with a wave of his hand. He then puts his hands over mine; I can no longer pick at the skin. I feel a gnawing deep in my soul. I need to do it. Sensing my discomfort he removes his hands and brushes his hair from his face. “I know it’s easier said than done,” he sighs. I say nothing. My fingers slowly move to the hanging skin, and I pick as discreetly as I can. “But you really need to start being more positive.”
“Everything is shit,” I reply, crumbling the perfect gingerbread house he created for us.
“Don’t say that,” he says in a whiney tone, as if this issue, this problem, is affecting him more than me. “Be positive.”
“Are you going to tell me that there are children dying in Africa next? That I should be happy that I’m not starving?” I snap. “No one asked for your advice.” He is the one who says anxiety is relative. He is understanding in theory, through social media retweets, but not in practice.
“Don’t be like that.”
I pull at the skin on my pinkie. I think the skin will pull off easily. It’s soft enough. However, it starts to bleed. Bright red blood gushes from my finger and my trousers are white so I have nowhere to press it against. I put my finger to my mouth, aware he will either:
- Act concerned and then give me a lecture
- Get angry at me for “self harming”
Surprisingly he doesn’t seem to notice. I think this annoys me more than if he did any of the three.
On the tube surrounded by people I feel worse than alone. People excited for their evenings encircle me, girls in high waisted jeans with flat stomachs, who smile effortlessly. They’re not going home to stare at their blank walls in a friendless flat share. They don’t ruin the rare times in which they get to see their boyfriends, because they’re having a particularly low day.
I search for a bit of skin on my index finger. I tug at it with my other hand and it peels off seamlessly. It feels good. I work on the side of my thumbnail, using my teeth to create hanging skin.
No one looks at me. I am invisible. Insignificant.
Then, I pull.