Jocelyn McGregor

split lip & salt lick (2015)

glass, metal powders, salt, ammonia, coal powder, resin

Each time today that I have pressed finger to lip a pain shoots down from it, stretching further each time. When I drop my finger away I see the ever-longer line of blood stamped across its rings, glistening, I extinguish it between thumb and forefinger. Was it now a gleaming red string-like beacon on my face? Or have I smeared it across my chin?
     “Do you have…”, a question, my eyes roll. I turn around, shoulders hunched, coaxing hair closer around my face, I raise a hand to conceal my gruesome bottom lip as if in thought. My hands muffle my reply, and my body tries to spin the chair back around like a child pulling at their parent’s arm impatiently to go home.
     Question answered, I rotate and look down again at the red printed stripe longer still, now bisecting the top two thirds of my finger.
     I try drinking water, surreptitiously wiping it across my lip and chin to wash away the blood that my mind’s eye sees so clearly. But the paranoia had peaked and I stand up, clumsy with discomfort and unsuccessful in my attempts to be discreet. I kick the chair, sending it on an unmanned rotation; and scuff my shoes on the felt carpet as I walk down the furrow between desks. My hands reach for elbows, then drop away, where do other people put them when they walk? My hands turn to flattening down and pinching the silk material of a dress slightly too short for the working environment.
     The bathroom door arrives within reach, push it open, pass the sinks, a mirror on either side, and go into the cubical at the end. Turn the lock. It clicks like a co-conspirator giving the all clear. I lean in close to the mirror, closer than any reassuring once-over would take you. I lean in to allow my eyes a rare introspection. They peer into themselves, expanding and contracting, adjusting focus, before rolling down to the patient: a lip and chin that appear to have nothing wrong with them.
     The pain still throbs there, but not a smear or a glistening bead of blood to announce it.
     The flames of my paranoia doused, I’m about to perform my last inspection like a final turn of a screw, or try of a locked door. I’m placing a finger on either side of where the laceration had been in my minds eye only moments ago. Pulling the skin taught.
     A fine line becomes a gaping fissure, a lip and chin split in two. My hands jump away as if scolded, my heart launches into my throat, panic-stricken and pulsating, a desperate bid for freedom. The canyon snaps shut, now no wider than one of the strands of hair that dances around my forehead. But like a little root or scoring of an etch-a-sketch, it makes it way downwards: stilted, lurching, and at the command of another. It’s disappearing over the brow of the hill of my chin and descending the slope of my neck. At the same time the lurching and dreadful feeling that is likewise descending in my stomach, sinking like putrid brine through water, coming to rest at the bottom, curling up; is fear.

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