Kill Your Darlings
"You must kill your darlings," my writing teacher paced the room like a preacher. "Be it your favorite passage, favorite chapter or favorite character. If it doesn't add anything to your story - cut, delete, kill it!"
Our stories returned covered with red marks. Death sentences for words he deemed unnecessary.
"You poor thing," my wife comforted me with kisses when I came home. "How can you stand getting so many marks on your paper?"
I shrugged. She wasn't a writer, she wouldn't understand.
I spent hours at the my typewriter ripping out words like tearing off my flesh. Writing in this classic style made me feel a deeper connection to my stories. And there was something more visceral about editing on paper than on a computer screen.
My wife came into my study with a steaming cup of tea. She placed it dangerously close to my latest draft.
She massaged my back and whispered in my ear: "Don't forget to take out the trash."
No time to morn the words I slew. I left them in body bags on the curb.
I spent the week transplanting words until it was time to leave for my workshop.
"Why don't you cut class and we'll got to the movies," my wife suggested. "I haven't seen you all week."
"My piece is being work shopped tonight."
"It's not like you're taking this course for a degree or even a grade."
I said nothing and left for class.
They crucified my piece. Too much useless information.
"I'll say it again," my teacher bellowed. "Kill your darlings! Trust me. It will make you a better writer."
I locked myself in my office, slicing my story to shreds.
"Don't even think about spending the whole weekend in here!" my wife said on Friday evening when she brought in my dinner tray.
I locked the door after she left.
On Saturday night she pounded on it and shouted: "I'm going to knock on this door until you come out."
As she pounded, I had an epiphany.
I had to kill my darling.
“Oh my God!” my wife screamed when I opened to door to let her in. “What are you doing? Stop! Stop!”
But it was too late.
My manuscript burned on my dinner tray. We watched until there was nothing left but ashes.
“Let's go see that movie,” I suggested.
A Cut Above
The blade ripped open his flesh. Blood rose to the surface.
The Trans never disturbed their son when he was up in his room blasting classical music. This meant Derek was doing his homework or studying for a test. He locked himself away for hours with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” repeating numerous times. Derek was the top student of his class, so his parents never questioned his methods.
Naked on his bed, razor blade in hand. The pain was his high. The pain was his secret.
Judy Winters knew she was Derek Tran’s only friend. But even she didn’t feel like she knew him. Judy lived across the street and spent most of her childhood playing with Derek. As they grew older, their interaction narrowed to walking to school together. It seemed the smarter Derek got, the less he wanted to have fun. Even in the summer he wore jeans and long sleeve shirts.
His first cut was at age thirteen. As he washed up in the bathroom, his eyes fell onto a razor blade his father must have left on the sink after shaving. It called to him. Just a little cut. Nobody will know.
The pain was terrifying, exciting and familiar all at the same time.
Derek Tran was the first to finish his test. This came as no surprise to Mrs. Winston. Derek was the brightest student she’d ever taught. He may have been a little shy and withdrawn, but she knew boys like him blossomed in college. When they were surrounded by their equals.
Though tests came easy to him, the anticipation of them was stressful. If he failed, his parents would scrutinize him more. He couldn’t wait to be done with them. He always finished first, channeling his nervous energy into answering questions.
But once completed, he had nowhere else to channel that energy in the classroom. He asked for a bathroom pass and practically ran there to lock himself into a stall.
Razors fit perfectly in his wallet. He rolled up his sleeve and began to slice.
Lucas saw that somebody was in the stall but decided to light the cigarette anyhow. He almost dropped it when he saw it was that nerdy Asian guy. That goody two-shoes would probably rat him out. He thought about threatening him, but the kid looked scared enough when Lucas glared at him.
He wouldn’t say a word.
Derek had cut everywhere: arms, legs, chest, stomach, the small of his back. And once while masturbating, he had an inspiration. As he cut, he climaxed. Blood and semen pooled on his thigh.
Principal Stewart hated making exceptions for students. But he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize Derek Tran’s grade-point average. It made the school look good. And if the school looked good, he looked good. The kid didn’t want to take gym class, and Stewart hated the idea of the boy not being active. But he granted the boy a library study period instead. At least he would get smarter as he got fatter.
There were so many places he wanted to cut, but knew he couldn’t. His face, his forehead, his tongue, his neck, his hands, his feet. And the urge to slice his eyelids was almost unbearable. Could he slice his eyes?
Derek’s father was proud of his son, but feared his mother pressured him too much. He worried that his son would have a nervous breakdown. It was happening to younger people more and more these days. So many responsibilities for somebody so young.
He wished his son had more friends and would leave the house more often. He’d love to sit in the stands and watch his son play baseball. Or even look out the window to see his son trying crazy stunts on his bike. Instead of it sitting in the basement collecting dust.
Life was too short not to have fun.
There were others like him out there. He met some on the internet. The dream was to meet them in person some day and cut together. It’d be better than a sex hook-up. The excitement of sharing his secret. And keeping another’s.
Derek’s mother found a blood-splattered washcloth under her son’s bed while she was vacuuming his room one morning. She thought it was odd, but figured he had cut himself shaving and accidentally dropped the cloth under his bed. He’d done it before.
She didn’t mind tidying up his room. It was one less thing he had to worry about and he could focus on his studies. Nothing was more important. He had to get good grades, get into a good college and get a high paying job. She didn’t want him to ever have to worry about money.
She threw the washcloth in the laundry hamper and continued her housework.
Summer was here. A report card full of As. Almost three months of not having to stress over tests (those summer classes his mother made him take were a cake walk). No longer needing to cut. Maybe he could wear shorts this summer.
And maybe nobody would notice his report card was stained with blood.