Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paper Flowers

I am sitting on the floor in Blicker's mother's bedroom, and I cannot give my final insulin injection of the day. My dog, Gatsby, sits beside me. Her brown eyes flit from my face to my stomach and back again and back again with worry. She knows I am hurting. I have poked the tip of the needle into my stomach six, seven, eight times. The needle will not break my skin. Little droplets of blood dot my stomach like a living, breathing pointilism piece of art.

I suppose I deserve this.

I refuse to give my injections anywhere but my stomach. I have a custom watercolor blend of blue, black, and brown to the right of my belly button. That's my spot. That's where I always poke, prod, and plunge. My needled hand gravitates toward the space with magnetic force. I can see the spot, and I can feel the needle slide into my stomach fat. I know what getting an injection there feels like: usually as smooth as a knife through soft clay. Tonight the clay is, unfortunately, a hard baked ball beneath my skin.

I don't ever showcase that bruise.

My derby bruises, however, are works of art I am proud to display. Courtesy of tonight's bout, I already have a circular bruise (with a bloody tear) on my left thigh. My left foot was practically crushed in a pileup that I tumbled over like spilling paint. On my right thigh, a small navy circle tattoos my skin with someone's toe stop. I love touching the texture of these intricate bruises. I love feeling the inconsistency of red rink rash bumps. I feel a sick sense of euphoria when I run my fingers over the goose eggs that might break the skin at any moment.

I am proud of those bruises. I worked for them. I earned them. They are beautiful.

The bruise on the stomach, however, shames me. I stand in front of Blicker's mother's full-length mirror and look at the reflection of failed impressionistic art near my belly button. I shouldn't feel any sort of sadness, I tell myself. We won our bout that evening by over 200 points. 200 points! We obliterated the other team! I jammed, I blocked, and I kicked ass! Hopefully our Derby South ranking will improve! I sold all of my books! We skated, we conquered, and we partied!

I just survived a face-first tumble over a pile of skaters! I just survived two toe stop flicks to my shins! I just survived a skater accidentally shoving the canvas of her crotch in my face when we tripped over one another!

And now here I stand, a nude model with a bare, unused needle on the carpeted floor. I investigate my leg bruises to boost my self-esteem. You took these, I tell myself. Now just give yourself a goddamned injection. You do this four, five, six times a day. Get a grip.

Gatsby whimpers.

I am too tired to keep trying. I want to take my freshly showered self and crawl onto the memory foam mattress that Blicker's mom is letting us enjoy. I want to think about how good it felt to win; i want to think about how groovy Beatrix Killa was in the halftime dance contest; I want to think about how no one on our team gave up, despite our large lead.

And now I am giving up. I am putting down the paintbrush and calling it quits.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been preaching to our fresh meat that no one on Burn City ever gives up or quits. Never. Don't even think about it.

Yet with no one around but my dog and my reflection, I am ready to incur a super high blood sugar in the morning so that I don't have to try again. I am doing exactly what I said that no one on our team would ever do. I am disappointing myself, and I am proving myself wrong.

Here I stand, a bruised slab of marble, ready to break apart and crumble to the ground.

I throw on an old t-shirt, underwear, and pants. I don't want to look at these bruises anymore. I don't want to think about them.

Still, I can't convince myself to hop onto the memory foam or leave the bedroom. Thinking about letting my team down, even when they aren't around, is going to cause all of those bruises to burst and morph into a bad Jackson Pollock knockoff. I can't let that happen, no matter how badly that needle hurts.

I plunge the insulin from the old needle back into the vial of insulin. I scrounge around my purse until I find a new, clean syringe. I pull thirty units out of the vial, and I try again. I press the needle into the left side of my stomach: nothing. Gatsby eyes flit from my face to my stomach and back again and back again with worry. I take a breath and try again. And again. And again. I close my eyes and visualize how many times I jammed around the pack this evening. I did that. I made those points happen.

And finally, the needle slides into my stomach. The insulin burns as I push the plunger all the way. My hands are shaking, and I am biting my tongue. When I pull my t-shirt down over my stomach, the blood soaks through the fabric and blooms like a paper tulip.

I know that tomorrow, I will have a brand new work of art gracing my stomach. One that I will not show. One that I gave myself. One that may never fade. One that guarantees I am far less fragile than I imagined.

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