by Stephanie Parent

I used to collect my bruises like jewellery, like a gift I’d been given, or perhaps something even more intimate – tattoos I wished I could make permanent, purple-blue blossoms and yellow-green patterns on my skin. Stripes like vines crossing my thighs, flowering up my hips and backside. I could feel the sore skin rubbing against the fabric of my pants when I walked, against the leather of my chair when I sat down, as if it were whispering secrets only I could hear. 

It’s not what you think.

I worked at a dungeon, as a submissive. I was paid well for these marks. The stripes were from canes, the blossoms from hands and paddles. They revealed what I had always known, or at least suspected: that I loved pain, that pain lived inside me, that it was just waiting to rise up in little bursts of blood against my skin. I had been yearning for these marks my entire life. A part of me wanted the whole world to see them, even if they wouldn’t understand. Maybe because they wouldn’t understand. My dark blossoms, I believed, made me special.

“Maybe one day, I won’t need to write meaning on my flesh.”

Now, I collect bruises more clumsily, scattered and haphazard: little plum kisses on my legs, where a bag bounced against my thighs; chartreuse splashes on my forearms and elbows, where I knocked against a wall. I’d gathered these adornments before and even during my dungeon years, of course – everyone bruises sometimes – but they feel different this time around. I hoard them, stockpile them; they remind me of a time I miss so dearly, it feels like a twist of my heart-muscle, a slow drip of blue-black blood. A bruise even I can’t see.

I will never bloom purple on my thighs and backside again; I will never grow green. For a while I needed those marks, needed to know that the sorrow and disappointment and anger within me had substance, had colour, had meaning. But I let it go on too long, till the bruises started to seep deeper, to stain my insides, and I wondered if pain would always be my lover. So I turned my back, and I left.

Now regret is my companion, sprouting violet and indigo from my heart-muscle, pulsing inside me. Sometimes it rises to the surface in those accidental dark kisses. Sometimes I search for a door to bang into, a surface that will collide against elbows and knees. I have left one skin behind, and the new one seems too tender, too colorless. 

Maybe one day, I won’t need to write meaning on my flesh. Maybe the words I write on paper or computer screen will be enough.

I keep knocking on doors. I hope one will open wide, and with pale, newborn skin, I’ll slip through.

Stephanie Parent | @SC_Parent | Instagram: @SCParent
Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, and she lives and writes in Los Angeles. Connect with her on Twitter as @SC_Parent and Instagram as @SCParent, or email

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