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

Support Dear Damsels

Words are empowering – not only for the women who write them, but those who read them too.

Join our Patreon and help us continue to offer an inclusive and welcoming space for women to come together, share their words, and get a resounding response back.

Sign up to our Patreon