Two words. Two syllables. Two girls sharing emotional stress silently, as busy commuters and parents hurry past obliviously. Two hands reaching across a dirty bakery counter. Two arms stretching across space into a wordless void. One arm was heavily scarred, still bleeding in places, the other covered by long sleeves.
I have to wear short sleeves at work. I have self-harmed on my wrist before, but this normally isn’t an issue, because I self-harm more on my thighs and the scars on my arm aren’t too noticeable. Except for this week. When I wanted people to see. When I wanted people to know the pain I was feeling. I sliced up the inside of my wrist, without first considering the consequences of short sleeves and that fresh mess.
They were still raw when I went to work on Saturday. It was unavoidable that I reveal them – in my experience, bandages only draws more attention. People were looking, I could tell. But only a single person had the courage to say something. It was a quiet afternoon, there were not many people around. A girl approached me, my age or younger, and asked if we had some plastic spoons. We didn’t, but I thought I should look anyway. As I was opening and closing drawers under the counter, she starts to speak.
She says I’m probably overstepping my boundaries here but I’ve been self harming for five years. Hold on.
I stopped. I looked into her eyes. I reached across the counter and clasped her hand in mine. Squeezed it.
Thank you I said.
And she walked away.
Never before has a person also experiencing emotional distress approached and revealed this to me. Never before have I had a supportive comment regarding my scars from a stranger. Never before have I felt that odd camaraderie with a stranger who shares my battle, when words aren’t needed, when all that’s needed is eye contact, and mutual understanding.
Until this moment. Until this girl. Until two words reminded me to keep fighting.
It’s been one day since I last self-harmed. As the urges have ebbed and flowed, this girl has been in my thoughts. And the words she spoke have emulated through my veins, more powerful than the lure of any knife. She is a stranger. I will probably never see her again. But she reminded me of my own strength. I just need to hold on.