Stones, by Kathryn Toolan

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash


a line of red makes its slow journey to the bottom of my chin it tickles but in the bad way it began in a freshly dug hole not of my own making that had a basin in my scalp i was wired drunk and young and this wasn’t the first time

there are small stones in my underwear i feel them as i move to keep warm i want to giggle or don’t it’s a bright night but the shadow of the church tower makes it seem dark where i stand i use my hair to wipe the blood away and pick up my shoes that i’d stepped out of because of the pins and needles from standing so long i walk down the small lane beside the church and let my hand run along the pebble stone wall of the pub i’d been drinking in before i went up the lane with him as i walk i press my hand harder against the wall i feel a pressure in my chest like a hand trying to push my ribs out of me from the inside i stop and slide my hand one last time and feel every stone and i open my mouth and it stays open but nothing comes out i looked at my hand but it’s too dark to see what the damage is i start walking faster towards home i like when my breath comes quicker

a car slows down behind me but doesn’t stop i don’t look up they’d know who i am i’ve lived here my whole life and so have they most likely and the car picks up speed and i recognize the license plate the sun is filling up the bottom of the horizon with a yolky yellow color before me and the sky above it is a purple color and everything smells like rotting leaves and i can see my hand now it’s in smithereens as my granny says and there are drops of blood on my bare legs and i’m cold but i lift my dress to feel the wind between my thighs and it’s nice but there’s something in my stomach now pushing the same as before but lower i’m almost at my house i drop my dress and see the gate my house is next

i turn the key in the back door and push it open slowly but it still screams like a fucking banshee despite my best efforts i wait and wait the fridge hums the remains of the logs in the fire crack and a snore reverberates through the house followed by another dad’s bed is above the kitchen one night the snores stopped but i didn’t hear the two thuds and scrape of slippers and i faced him at the bottom of the stairs and braced myself and nothing happened but his eyes were red and filled with sleep and he looked sad and are you ok and my slurred response and him turning to go back upstairs and hot tears he talked to me a week after that about being safe with my drinking

i lock the back door and walk to my room and the snores keep rhythm in my room i survey the damage the blood in my hair is crispy now and my hand looks bad so i wash it and it’s better i have football the next day so that’s a good cover story

i stand in my underwear and try to stare at my body for longer than 15 seconds my eyes scanning my hips and my legs and my stomach and what age will i be when they look normal i sit down on the floor facing the mirror i lean to the left and reach under the mattress until i find the sharp edge with my index finger the razor feels hot or maybe i’m hot i am hot i’m sweating and my heart starts to beat faster and my pits are sweating now i know what’s coming i lie down on the floor with two fingers pressing either side of the razor hard i gently run it over my hips until the bumps are there my lines all straight lines various stages of healing i press the blade into my hip feel a break and then slide the blade to the left slowly stings not breathing the red line thickens spills down the first is always the best but the others feel good too seeing the red is satisfying when there is enough and it’s sticky i stand up slowly go to the bathroom clean the floor/blade/sleep

with my football bag now i walk down the high street and i hear the car before i see it tinted windows red with a low rear bumper it stops beside me and i turn the window is rolled down i get in because he says he’ll drive me home we pull into the marina that’s right before the turn for my road under a tree he turns the engine off but keeps one hand on the wheel and picks a scab on his left hand and he begins to talk his words sound hollow empty a bone with no marrow tapping a piece of bamboo on a hard surface tap tap tap repetition he doesn’t remember last night he wishes he didn’t drink that much his head is in bits i should have texted him back what happened to your hand it’s cut to shit don’t remember what i say

can you drop me home i’ve to work at 3

he turns the engine on but doesn’t drive yet sorry i’m sorry ok i love you

he leans over and pulls me over by my shoulders and wraps his arms around my whole body the gear stick presses into left hip i can feel one of the fresh ones open a bit i groan his mouth is over mine he thinks my moan is good his hand is under my top mashing my breast into my ribcage i start to sweat and want to vomit the gear stick presses harder against my side he pulls back and stares and stares and turns back to the wheel and releases the handbrake pulls off drops me at my neighbor’s house down the road from mine he’s never met my parents in 2 years i walk back towards my gate before i get to the back door he texts me

hot water rushes at my face i open my mouth and let it fill and overflow my eyes are closed i tilt my head back further i inhale water through my nose bending over i feel the blood rush to my head i sit on the floor of the shower my foot covers the drain and the water begins to fill up the bottom it’s a little pink from my hip / sitting at a brown table on a brown straight back chair he’s there across from me i feel the push in my chest again i look down to my left pink water lapping at me ankles, i see little stones through the water different greys one more push my ribs open outwards like two well-oiled gates my hands move quickly this isn’t the first time display organs neatly on the table my heart one lung my kidneys my intestines stacked neatly glance up he picks at a scab on his left hand and coughs / i cough i lift my foot the water drains away stand up

we sit by the fountain outside our school and she touches the now black scab resting under my hair does it hurt

no it’s fine now, almost healed i think

did he say sorry

yeah, sort of he was out of his mind though that night because they had lost the final you know

oh yeah i forgot that, i heard ryan connelly got thrown out of JPs that night for punching a bartender, so ridiculous

oh i didn’t hear that

well i’m sure he didn’t mean it, your head i mean, he’s mad about you sure, you’re the only one who can calm him down not to mention the fact he’s the year above us i’m actually still so jealous

yeah, i guess i’ll just see what happens i’m sure it won’t happen again

does your mam know

no not at all, when he hurt my arm at christmas i think she was suspicious it was something to do with him but he got me that bracelet after that anyway i don’t think she’d know him from adam if he passed her on the street

it’s only when he’s drunk though it’s not really his fault

yeah i know



Kathryn Toolan—24 year old writer, originally from Ireland but living in New York. Promoter of literature in translation & banned books.

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