“Accidental Wounds” by Nicole Zuleger

   Wound healing is a dynamic process. For the healing process to begin, there first has to be a wound. Purposeful and accidental wounds must be treated differently. A purposeful wound, like a surgical incision or the random girl in the library calling me a bitch for being upset that she sexted my boyfriend, do not hold as big of a concern as accidental wounds. Those are the wounds caused by a car or a text or a word. They were never meant to cause so much harm, yet these are the killer wounds.

   Almost immediately after a wound occurs it begins bleeding. The blood acts as a natural flushing agent to clean the affected area. The tears that rolled down my cheeks were my defense system’s attempts to flush all emotions from my body. After every fight, every text telling me I’m a horrible friend and I’m the reason everything is going wrong and I’m never happy enough and how you’re going to move or stop talking to me or kill yourself, I cried. My sobs were always silent, just as blood rolls from a wound without so much as a whisper. My tears had to remain quiet to prevent another lecture from my parents about our toxic friendship.

   We were sitting in my room after the football game. Somehow we’d gone from my boyfriend issues to your family. “…she calls me fat and tells me she wishes she never had me…That I’m a disgrace and a mistake…She gave me this bruise because I got a C.” I had never heard of a mother hating her child so much. I’d never thought much about divorce. I knew what abuse was, but never had one of my friends gone through it. I wanted to help, but what could I do? I was a kid a much as you were.

   The first step of visible healing is the formation of a scab. The blood forms a clot that contracts and dehydrates to make a scab. This scab acts as a natural band aid to prevent infection from seeping in. If the scab reopens the wound begins to bleed and clot all over again. I would always think I was done crying. My tears had scabbed against my cheeks. I would take a deep breath and look at the phone I had shut off because I could not handle any more abuse. Then slowly, hesitantly, I would turn back on the wretched technology and the words would come flashing in like bullets. The tears would start to flow again as the scab was torn.

   Debridement starts after a scab is formed. This is the act of white blood cells moving into the area and removing foreign material, bacterial infection, and necrotic tissue. We spent hours on the phone, trying in vain to work out our issues. This was after the texting. After the blows you dealt with your jagged words. I refused to let you hide behind your phone anymore and we would pick through our issues in person. You could hear the tears in my voice as we spoke. You had to see the blood that your harsh words spilled. And once we both had bled out our souls we tried to reform our friendship.

   “No one would care if I died anyways.”

   “I would care. I would care so much. You can’t just leave me.”

   “You’d be fine. You’re better off without me anyways.”

   A wound begins to shrink after about a week and by three weeks it starts maturation and eventually fades away. This can take years. I still ache from the pain you caused me. I cannot trust my friends not to hurt me like you did. Every time they text me I start to think this must be it. This is the text that will start the abuse again and send me crawling into a corner for the rest of the night. This is the text that will tell me how horrible I am and how perfect they are. How I am a screw up and they are angels walking the earth. It never is that text though. They are not like you. They are not looking for a punching bag to release their anger. Despite my friend’s good intentions, I am not through with the maturation stage. My wounds have lasting effects. It will be years after your assaults for me to trust that my friends truly love me. That they will not become my worst enemy in a blink of an eye as you did.

   “I’m just sick of always hanging out with you. I want a break. You can’t be seriously upset that I invited the others and not you. I’m allowed to do things without you!”

   My hands shake as I type out, “Yes, I am upset you invited all of our friends. I am upset that you invited my best friend I’ve known since I was six and you’ve known maybe six weeks. I am upset that you’re ‘sick of always hanging out with me’ but when I don’t invite you to something I never hear the end of it. I have been talking about wanting a group of friends to go with to the fair for forever and then you set up a group and leave me out. I am allowed to be upset and you have no right to tell me my emotions are wrong!” But before I can hit send my fingers press the delete button and type out the new message, “Whatever…have fun at the fair.”

   There is a chain effect of healing that doctors never talk about. They give out casts and Band-Aids and shots and medicine in hopes to heal physical wounds, but what about the mental injuries? Medicine can only reach in and fix physical symptom of the pain. It never really takes all the pain away. The mental trauma lingers under the wound. The medicine masks the hurt only for a moment.

   You, my dear friend, chose to alleviate this pain on the person closest to you. I do not think you ever meant to cause so much pain. You could not help yourself. These were the accidental wounds you inflicted. You made me believe everything I did was wrong. I could only be your friend and no one else’s, but it was perfectly okay for you to have different friends. It was okay for you to throw parties without ever inviting me. It was okay for you to invite all of our mutual friends to the fair and leave me out because you needed a break from hanging out with me. I understand that you were hurting back then. You had your mother hating you and your father drinking too much and the weight of keeping your family alive on your shoulders. I understand you were in pain…but how does that give you the right to hurt me? Your parents feel pain. Your parents hurt you. You hurt me. I hurt myself. This is the chain effect doctors cannot heal and yet these wounds are more fatal than if we were hit by a car.

   Pick up the phone. Damn it! PICK UP YOUR PHONE! “Hello, you’ve reached-“I throw the phone onto the bed in anger. You won’t pick up. You left this note. This terrible note about how you couldn’t handle life anymore and you were going to end it all. Now you won’t answer you phone and the panic is crawling into my chest and I can’t breathe. There’s a buzz and I dive for my phone, answering before it can even fully ring. “Do you know how much I’ve been panicking?!” I shout, tears streaming down my pale cheeks.

   “Don’t yell at me! This is your fault anyways!” you start and I bleed deeper.

   I stopped the chain of pain. I could not let it spread on to anyone else. I am not that selfish. For awhile, I would let the pain consume me. I drowned in it, my limbs thrashing around as I silently screamed for help. Rescue never came. As that pain became physically damaging to my health I knew there had to be a better outlet than hurting someone. Some way to stop the chain without me just absorbing this terrible burden. So I fought it out. Never with a person. I fought with a wall. With my pillow. With the punching bag in Tae Kwon Do class. I fought inanimate objects, letting them be the end of the chain so they could absorb all the pain. People hurt you. You hurt me. I punch the wall when no one is looking. Parents hurt you. You hurt me. I scream into my pillow until my voice is hoarse. Someone hurts you. You hurt me. I stay after class and attack that punching bag like it is the manifestation of pain itself.

   I am not sure you ever really cared about how I transferred the hurt I received. It did not matter to you, as long as I received it and you were freed. The only time you pretended to care was in Tae Kwon Do after one of your more brutal attacks. You were not on the sparring team, so typically we did not have the last session together, but the day’s schedule had been rearranged and somehow we were stuck together. You could not look me in the eye, that is how wounded we were. When the gong rang to end class I hung back like normal and waited for the rest of the class to leave before moving to the red and black bag.

   “I can’t believe he asked if you were upset about not placing. I was the one who couldn’t even compete because of my knee!” You give me a look; because it is my fault your knee is broken. I delivered that accidental blow in training. Our instructor had warned you that you were holding the pad wrong, but you didn’t listen. You are angry he asked you how I was taking my low placing at the competition rather than how you were healing. In your jealousy that someone could possibly care about me more than you, you begin to tell our Latin teacher why you are on crutches. I have bared you telling this story a million times today as I help you carry your books through the halls. You pretend not to notice the tears about to spill.

   After a deep breath my fist connects. Another deep breath, my leg smacks the leather. Another breath and another, all followed by a violent movement of my body. My pace increases as I lose control. Attack the bag, my animalistic instincts taking over. Once I am calm, once the aggression has finally left my body, I back away from the bag and wipe the tears that started falling who knows when. Out of the corner of my eye I see you hiding in the doorways. One direct stare and you snake away to the locker rooms.

   Wounds heal. Slowly, quickly, easily, it does not matter. They heal or you die. Your Emotional wounds nearly killed me. The healing process started for me when I chose to see a doctor who understands the chain effect of emotional trauma. He prescribed blocking you from my life. Slowly I was able to stop my bleeding wounds. Now there are only scars left where your friendship once was.

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