Paper Cuts

Sometimes you’ve bled to death before you even know you’re bleeding. It isn’t the subtle knife that twists its way into the place where your insides coil – slowly – to spread you open and unravel you. It isn’t a slice across the neck – the throat punch that spills you onto the pavement.

Sometimes it’s the little things; every moment once thought insignificant, barely a passing thought. It’s not always words; sometimes it’s what’s left unspoken. A smile that isn’t returned. A kiss left hanging in the air like an autumn leaf that clings to the dead branch that once held it close.

These little things, in isolation, are truly little. You may not even remember them a moment later. But they leave their marks – faint though they may be. They’re there, and when enough little things conspire against you, they wield the power to bleed you.

My therapist calls it “death by a million paper cuts.” It isn’t the knife that cuts deep. It isn’t the slit you notice. Some paper cuts hurt more than you can stand – like the ones that slip between your fingernails. Some paper cuts don’t even draw blood – superficial scrapes that cut away dead skin you don’t notice until you run your hand under the faucet and recoil like a demon compelled by an exorcist’s chrism.

The little things don’t kill you alone. But enough of them will. Every paper cut slices you, ever deeper. They peel back your layers like a sad onion, stripping you away until you’re laid bare – skinned alive and unrecognizable, to yourself let alone anyone else. Paper cut upon paper cut accumulate until they’re deep enough to draw blood, and by the time you finally feel them, you can’t stop the bleeding.


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