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Ross Brownell, 25 Jun '13

The Circle of Claret

I remember the day I lost my fingers with crystalline clarity. The room I was in seems worse now than when I was actually sleeping in it, though my standards have risen considerably. That oppressive miasma of brown that hung from the walls, and called itself wallpaper. A thin, yellowing, carpet, that seemed to be clinging tight to the room's corners, like a great, flat, trapeze wire. I remember the furniture, rich brown, unspeakably unpolished wood, that was too nice for the room, but far too heavy to move, and my bedding, a spray of unwelcome floral sheets, with a seemingly mammalian blanket, forever sealed around the foot of the mattress. The only thing I liked about my room was it's size, the décor, the cold, and the noise from the road outside and the kitchen below, could all be forgiven, because of the free way I could move around. Sauntering from wall to wall, as I made up my mind which clubs to chance that night, frantically pacing from desk to door whilst reading long, dry, draining, volumes in an attempt to inspire some drama into whatever odourless text I'd been made to read for my lessons, and making love on that bitter carpet, to girls that I'd barely spoken to, and who didn't know how young I was.

The top of my desk was stained even before I'd begun my strict wine, and tea-spilling regime. The dark brown underneath mingled with wax yellows, and ink purples, coffee blacks, and questionable reds. All those have long since been eclipsed by the great circle of claret my hand's wasted blood left on the chestnut surface. It doesn't look suspicious, so much as utterly damning. You'd be surprised at the amount of blood that pumps out of the nubbed palm of your hand when you remove a couple of fingers. Particularly if the pain momentarily eclipses your need to collect the liquid. I sat at the desk, my legs deep under, so that my stomach uncomfortably pressed against the edge, my left hand placed determinedly on the desk, palm-down with all the fingers stretching. I wanted to appreciate the feeling, of what would soon be useless musculature. My right hand cradled a glass of all too cheap gin, that burned on the way down, but numbed you to the tips of your limbs. I knew better than to use a true anaesthetic, for fear of tainting my body, but at this moment I thought how easy it would have been to slip a few vials of morphine into my pocket, when I'd lifted the scalpel from the medical college. I stared at the blade, propped up absurdly in my pen stand, to try and lessen the gravity of the situation, and I wondered how clean the cut would be. I'd tried the blade by slicing through a steak I acquired at the butchers, and found, to a mixture of my regret, and gratitude, that it would probably do the job.

I never took the decision lightly. Deforming yourself is something that requires a great deal of thought, but somewhere in the back of my mind I always knew I'd do it. It was simply a case of weighing up having those fingers as a part of me, against the untellable wonders I could make from them if they weren't. In a way it was like deciding whether or not to drink a particularly fine wine, because you never thought there was an occasion special enough.

I looked across the table at the little paraffin heater I'd bought for the occasion, saw the flame flicking out of the top of it, and felt my right leg twitch, stretching the scar tissue on my shin. I tightened and loosed my calves in rhythm with my breathing, and half-remembered accidentally opening that wound on my leg. Though I fully remembered my grandmother sealing it shut with the side of a copper pan, to "keep everything precious inside." The skin of my left hand felt like it was bubbling, as though it had already resigned itself to what was going to happen. I remember the way I was breathing, hissing air in, and shuddering it out, I went over my routine once more, out loud. This was the dress rehearsal.

"I will dislocate the left-most fingers of my left hand, at the major knuckle, one at a time."

I'd determined that if I tried to do both at once, I might not get clean reliable dislocations.

"I will cut-" I took a moment to hiss in more air. "I will cut through each finger with the scalpel, and I will not stop in between, to grieve for the first's loss." My voice cracked in a way that embarrasses me still.

"Then I will hold my hand over the basin, as I tourniquet my wrist with the bandages in my desk drawer." I placed the roll of cloth on the desk as I said this.

"And then-" I looked at the fire for half a moment. "-then I will tidy up."

It had been an ordeal to even vocalise the task ahead of me, and it was exactly as painful, and difficult as I had feared it would be. I did "grieve for the first one's loss", thus creating that famous claret circle, and it was much more difficult than I had thought to tie a tourniquet with one shaking hand, and a chattering, crying mouth. Somehow though when it came to the fire, I had calmed myself, the burn was excruciating, but the fire was healing me. The fire was a friend. The fire was family.

I decanted all the blood I could, into a mason jar, and lay my fingers in my grandmother's old jewellery box. I crossed them, and I laughed, wheezing and guffawing, before weeping, and gasping. I don't remember if I managed to stop myself before I fell asleep on the floor, sat upright against the wall. It's really the only crack in my memory, but the determination I felt the next morning is branded into my consciousness. The first step was complete, and the rewards stretched ahead of me vast, and perpetual.

Like time.

Comments · 1

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  • Orlando Ramos said...

    This was... jarring. Besides the first paragraph, which had a few too many commas and some unnecessarily long sentences, the writing is really superb. An interesting character you have created here, and I wonder what exactly it is that he believes he was on his way to accomplishing by hurting himself so.

    • Posted 6 years ago