Every winter I start to rot. My cartilage goes first, it means my skin peels away in clumps. I have to be careful with myself.

September 16th, eating cold soup; our microwave was dead. My lip fell into the bowl. Soup jumped back, leaving flecks of red on my shirt. I touched my face and the space left behind. Spongy dead flesh, then the hard enamel of my exposed teeth. Lifting it out of the bowl with my spoon, I watched the lip drip tomato onto the tablecloth, wondering if I should stack it in the dishwasher with the rest of my cutlery. When I taped it back onto my face, I could still smile, but the lip had already begun to turn black.

November 2nd. My eye popped out on my walk home. It rolled too fast, slipping into the darkness between the grates of a drain. I knelt by it for hours, but I couldn’t quite reach it. I could feel the rot reach my lungs, mixing with the damp air wafting from the sewer below, and as it gnawed away at me I couldn’t breathe. People passed by me, gaping. I felt hot and itchy. My ear was loose, so I pulled it free myself; no use waiting for it to fall, to lose another thing. The street lights turned on, but their glow didn’t cut down far enough to see the white of my eye. It’s still there; if I concentrate, I can see blurry movement, the scratch of the rats along the pipes.

The doctor knew me by name. He pushed his features in such a way that every summer I vowed to never go back. I didn’t want to see his exasperation. When my cheek fell away, and all you could see when you looked at me was a wet cavern, my tongue black and twitching in the centre of my face, I booked an appointment. He did the same he always did. Wrapped me in bandages so tight they held me together. He asked: why do you do this to yourself every year?

Back home, I stood before a mirror, pulling the tops of my fingers off, one by one. As each one snapped like dry wood, I asked myself why? why why why why.

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