We met by the back sink of the fourth floor girls’ can. Rosa kept the razor in a patchwork pencil case. Each time, we were surprised by handle’s cold weight, solemn as we
unscrewed the blade. We took turns, raised arms, let hands etch tiny Xs into the baby flesh beneath our biceps, wadded paper towel over blood. A blight for Jiffy Marker scrawl
that swore we were hot fucks, a hex for the boys who trapped us outside the gym, made us flash our bras, a pox on the cologned teacher who rubbed our backs while checking homework.
Xs itched in the heat of armpits, hardened scabs we picked and peeled; each day, new burdens, new crosses. We promised to live alone, marry jobs, love a test tube baby. We got
the same wash ’n wear haircut, the same bossy black Oxfords. We tried not to panic when we saw Philipa laughing at Jimmy B.’s jokes in the cafeteria, or Elaine
kissing Danny W. in the band room, clarinet in pieces at her feet. Or Tracy with Roger H. by the Ancient Worlds shelf in the library, horn-rims cocked sloppily on her
cheek, his pale flakey hands up the front of her shirt. Warm pipes, leaky sinks, echo of mildewed tile, our rituals dwindled, until the day Rosa confessed she had lost
the razor, pencil case ransacked by Mark G. who was taking her to the movies on Saturday night. Skin thickened, hair grew, Xs faded to rumour,
whispered warnings, faint ink on divorce papers, restraining orders, police reports. The lighter the mark, the deeper the cut, and no one’s blood to console us.
-- Nancy Lee is the author of two critically acclaimed books, Dead Girls (McClelland & Stewart, 2002), a collection of short stories, and The Age (McClelland & Stewart, 2014), a novel. Her poetry has appeared in Canadian Literature, Event Magazine, PrismInternational, and The Fiddlehead. She lives in Steveston, B.C. with her husband, the author John Vigna.