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Starification

(Voiceover as we fly high above the Vegas strip:) Okay, I admit it. I'm a Do-It-Yourselfer. From piercing my nipples to tattooing my stomach, I've always trusted my own hands above those of a professional. First because I was underage, and later out of habit, I have decorated my body both in ways I admire and ways that I regret. 

(We have arrived in a suburb in the southeast corner of the city. Camera pans to a house landscaped with rocks and desert plants; then in through a side window. We are in a tidy bedroom with a calm decor, lit by the afternoon light coming in through the window. We are above the bed, where a teenage girl lies clearly in pain, though the source is not apparent. Voiceover continues:) That day, I had another migraine. So what else is new? My medicine wasn't kicking in, and I felt terrible, to say the least. But this time was different. THIS time, I was going to do something about it. I was going to fight back against the pain of my migraine. How? Can you say ENDORPHIN RUSH?!! 

(Camera moves to the foot of the bed. We watch as the girl retrieves matches, a candle, and scissors from a cubbyhole in the desk next to her bed. She sets the items down on the desktop and strikes a match. The orange glow is ominous in the half-darkness as she lights the candle. Camera moves in close, over her shoulder as she pulls her bare right ankle close to her slouched body, and picks up the scissors. She holds the scissors to the candle flame for ten seconds? twenty? Until their tips are black.) 

(We are back at the foot of the bed. What she does next is shocking, yet somehow predictable. She presses the tips of the scissors to her ankle, wincing and turning her face upward as she does so. When she recovers, she returns the scissors to the heart of the flame.  Camera drifts to ceiling, and we presume that she continues. Then, a brief over-the-shoulder shot of her ankle. In blistered white, outlined in red, she has created a five-pointed star, apparently by turning the scissors in five directions. From the ceiling we see her flop down onto the bed and this shot holds for a couple of seconds. 

(Handheld camera. Back on the Vegas strip, this time down in the thick of it, warring with the tourists for elbow space as we move along briskly.  Voiceover:)  For a while, I was able to keep it a secret.  I'd been wearing pants all summer long anyway, so no one thought it was odd.   Nor, at first, did I strive to attach any meaning to what I regarded as a purely " "medicinal" act.  But why hadn't I chosen to get my kicks in a way that wouldn't leave a permanent mark?  Well...that, I didn't have an answer for.  I still don't.  But more about that later. 

(Blue sky. Pan down to a summery beach scene, complete with cool surfers, sunburnt families, and seagull noises. Voiceover:) Dad saw it one morning while I was visiting him in San Diego.  (Jump to the inside of a small condo, focus on the spotlessly clean kitchen nook.  A man with the same color hair as the girl's paces idly, drinking orange juice.  The girl enters in pajamas: shorts and a T-shirt.) 

"What's that on your ankle, dear?" the man asks. 

"Nothing," she answers. 

"Will you let me take a look at it?" 

"...Okay, I'll tell you.  I burned myself, okay?" she says defensively.  "I had a migraine and I really wanted the endorphin rush, so I burned myself."  (We watch the two drift into the living room and toward a pristine sofa, from behind which we view them as their voices fade out.  Voiceover:)  My dad went on to say that people would think I had been abused as a child because of this scar. He even accused my mom of not taking care of me properly, because she "let this happen."  He made sure himself that I put antibiotic ointment on my "wound" every night. 

The phone call to my mom went a little better.  (From in front of the same sofa, we watch the girl, curled around the telephone, as she speaks:) 

"I have to tell you something, Mom." (The scene narrows to fit on the left half of the screen, as the right half opens and we see a woman with the same long face as the girl holding a phone to her ear.) 

"Okay," the woman says with a bit of a question in her voice. 

"I burned myself. On my ankle." 

"...When was this?" 

"When I had a migraine. I really wanted to feel something other than the migraine, so I went for the endorphin rush." 

"...Sweet-pea, you've got to tell me when you feel like doing these kinds of things next time.  Okay?" 

"Okay." 

(Camera pans slowly over the desert wilderness surrounding Las Vegas: red rocks sculpted by the wind, stunted Joshua trees, scattered yucca and agave, and the mountains in the background.  Voiceover:)   Despite my constant picking at it, my star has faded over the past six weeks to a reddish-purple scar, level with the skin surface around it.  Though I still don't entirely understand what compelled me to do this, I want to believe that it was caused by something greater than myself. 

I've thought of a meaning for my star-scar as well.  For me, it now represents a special friendship I made recently.  I see this friendship as pre-destined, or "in the stars," and so that is why I now let my star remind me to never let her go, or I may lose her - for good - to a bout of manic-depression. 

I wish I could say that I remembered the experience itself more accurately that I do.  That feeling of pain mixed with an unbelievable natural high. But all the sensation is gone from that memory now. In fact, when I look back on the whole experience in my mind's eye, it's just like watching a video.  (Blackout.) 

(A notice flashes onto the screen:) "Disclaimer: Never do what I did.  It was unsafe and I could have gotten a serious infection.  If you try to repeat my experience, it's your own fault if you get blood poisoning and die.  You have been warned!"

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 22 Sept. 2004
in Scarification

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