Permanent Scars

Daphne
I. I am the child of two people who do not love each other.

They named me Daphne—a girl whose story is colored by power and obsession. Her god loved her, and she ran. It sounds so simple. Say it out loud once, it takes five seconds.

But here is where it gets complicated.

Her god loved her, but her father loved her more. He loved her so much that he couldn’t let anyone else touch her, so he turned her into a tree, complete with bark and leaves. A root structure. In this way, he kept her safe.

My parents named me after a girl who was loved too much, which makes me think my name is their way of reconciling themselves to the fact that they do not love me at all.

II. I am two colors. Black and white. The division between light and dark. Order and Chaos. Presence and absence.

These are not colors.

My mother is queen of all demons. This has left me with a legacy of culture and status, but nothing substantial. I am the by-product of a heartless vixen, which explains perfectly why she does not love me.

My father? He should have tried harder.

III. The boy is tall, with dirty-blond hair and eyes the clear color of water. Of snow-melt. A gift to me on Ash Wednesday, he comes complete with history and guilt. With the smell of leaves and branches, burning.

He is broken in three ways, sometimes four. I count them.

-He believes himself to be human, but is not actually. At least not anymore. This is similar to the way he believes himself to be alive.
-He has a grim affinity for drugs. This comes with no caveat and no parentheses. This is just a fact of life.
-He is doggedly unhappy and once decided to kill himself. Sadly, he has not really stopped.
-On certain occasions when these first three things have ceased to be bad enough, he loves me. The other sins are commonplace, forgivable under a big enough umbrella. This fourth is irrevocable. Unconscionable. In a word, it is utterly damning.

IV. He loves me anyway.

V. There are scars on his arms from how badly he didn’t want to live. Not the nicks and scratches of indecision. He made his plan and followed it. His efforts run vertical, wrist-to-elbow—snake off and diverge, following his veins. They look like branches.

VI. I ask if he’s ashamed. The question is simple.

His hair is gold like sunlight, his eyes are pale blue. He has all the trappings of humanity, the emotions, the colors, but he decided not to keep it. Decided that it wasn’t and could never be enough.

I have nothing.

And so, I ask if he’s ashamed of not loving, or of not being loved. I don’t care if the question hurts him. He gave up too much—and too willingly—for me to be gentle.

I would have kept those things forever, if they’d been mine.

VII. My father gave me a ruined boy to compensate for the fact that he does not love me.

The boy is fragile, broken—broke himself—broke everything.

I asked him why he did it. He said because the world was unlivable. He said it was unlovable, but I think he meant himself. I think he meant that loneliness is sometimes painful.

I curl against him, tuck my head beneath his chin and listen to his heart. It says stay and wait. It says regret. He knows what it is to want love, a love so fierce you grow roots. I hear his heart say please.

He went looking for angels and found me instead, girl of the sorrows, sad but not sorry. I waited for a sign, a star to fall. He reached for a knife and drew branches.

*This week, our common prompt comes from Anne Marie () and is Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo and Daphne, which can be found here

87 thoughts on “Permanent Scars

  1. Oh my god, I can’t wait for you to rewrite On Earth.

    This is lovely. Like a poem. A long, prose poem.

    The descriptions of him are beautiful. “He has all the trappings of humanity, the emotions, the colors, but he decided not to keep it.”

    “The boy is tall, with dirty-blond hair and eyes the clear color of water. Of snow-melt. A gift to me on Ash Wednesday, he comes complete with history and guilt. With the smell of leaves and branches, burning.”

  2. Could the prompt be any more perfect??? I loved this listing and making sense of things. It’s so Daphne πŸ™‚

  3. I love Truman. He is so handsome. In such an . . . unkempt way.

    I’m getting seriously keyed-up to tackle this, but first things first–FE revisions, you are going down!

  4. Could the prompt be any more perfect???

    I know! I saw it and was like, wait, wait, I know this one!

  5. That was such a gorgeous story! I really love your original interpretation of the myth, and the myth that you yourself build around it. Lovely!

  6. Wow. So many, many beautiful lines. I want to run my fingers through them and stroke them like pets.

    Lesley

  7. Very engaging. (I shouldn’t have read all the other comments, because now I don’t have anything better to say) I’d quote like did, but it’d be all of it.

  8. I’m not sure if the ending was going where I wanted it to, or, where I thought I should want it to go… you’re the queen of ambiguity, which is a very good thing. I feel like the story ends just before a sharp inhalation… a gasp, or a sound of pleasure? Who knows…

    Excellent.

  9. This made me laugh πŸ˜€

    It’s like, I never start out meaning to be ambiguous, and then by the time I get to the end, a story has developed so many different angles that I can’t just say one definitive thing about it!

  10. Thanks! Prompt-week is my favorite, because I love taking apart myths and thinking about all the pieces.

  11. Thanks! That image made me laugh and imagine turning various lines into house-pets πŸ˜€

  12. This makes me ache…and also makes me glad the story is short, because I’m certain I’d be in tatters by the end of anything longer. Beautifully written. Her voice seems very clear in my head!

  13. I love the way this sounds.

    I especially like the way you brought mythology (which the picture makes easy) into the story, along with race and other tensions. πŸ™‚

  14. I heart the description, the imagery in this, for example: ‘III. The boy is tall, with dirty-blond hair and eyes the clear color of water. Of snow-melt. A gift to me on Ash Wednesday, he comes complete with history and guilt. With the smell of leaves and branches, burning.’
    and this- this is my favorite:
    ‘He went looking for angels and found me instead, girl of the sorrows, sad but not sorry. I waited for a sign, a star to fall. He reached for a knife and drew branches.’

  15. Glad you liked it! And that’s good point about the length. While I’m inclined to go longer with this one day, I really couldn’t do it with the same voice, because, wow, would that be exhausting! Length would require some levity πŸ˜€

  16. Thanks!

    I love the way this sounds.

    That makes me happy, because I am absolutely fixated on how things sound, everything, all the time πŸ™‚ Probably to an unreasonable degree . . .

  17. Thanks! That one gave me that moment of hesitation where I thought, should I do this? That’s one of my favorite parts of writing, because I’ve found that it usually means you should πŸ™‚

  18. Bernini is one of my favorite sculptors. I find it so beautiful that Daphne is shown in mid transformation. I love the way you have this story broken up into a list. I think it adds distinction to the narrator’s voice.

  19. Straight to the heart. It’s beautiful and devastating.
    And I too vote for the resurrection of OE.

  20. I know what you mean. I’m the same way with my writing. It has to sound right or I don’t keep going with it. =)

  21. What I find interesting about this one is how well you can get to know the characters without a concrete story. It’s all quick images and impressions. I love the way it tied into the myth.

  22. Okay, after re-reading this (without kids bothering me) . . . I’m very much in awe. =D

  23. OoooooOOOooo … I’d like one of those for a pet please especially that last line. Assuming they are self-cleaning and don’t bite that is!

    Lesley

  24. Bernini is one of my favorites too–and this is my favorite Bernini! I was so happy to have it given to us a prompt, because I am a sucker for girls who turn into trees πŸ™‚

  25. Thanks! I have to admit, it did feel a little weird to try and tell a story using no scenes and no setting πŸ˜€

  26. I have goosebumps all along my arms and stretching up my neck. And I wonder why I ever let myself get distracted from this page.

    Wow. Just… wow

  27. Stunning. So beautiful and tragic and yet not devoid of hope. I am relearning to breathe as I type this.

  28. Brenna,

    This is so beautiful. This was…just…wow. I’m speechless. I’ve heard such good things about your writing (and am eager to read FE; when does it come out?) and now I really know what they are saying. You have a gift. Truly.

    – Rachel

  29. This is gorgeous tragedy with that hint of redemption. I absolutely love this. My heart hurts for them both. Thank you so much for turning my prompt into this gem!

  30. Wow. This is so beautifully written, with lots of emotion and such a unique take on the prompt. I especially love that last paragraph.

  31. She’s a troublingly cold little thing, but I have fun with her (I don’t know what that says about me . . . )

  32. I’m really glad you liked it. I absolutely love the prompt, but I still managed to get so far away from it πŸ™‚

  33. Oh, Bob–no crying! Unless it’s the good kind. And yeah, okay, I firmly believe that book-crying is the good kind πŸ™‚

    (In the end, in my mind, it all turns out okay.)

  34. Thanks πŸ˜€ I swear I meant to have this very . . . less abstract response to the prompt, but gods are just so conceptual!

  35. I’m glad you liked it! (I’m shameless about opportunities to go all prose-poemy.)

    FE is scheduled for fall of 2010, though the actual title is still up for debate. When it changes, I will of course be plastering the world with it πŸ˜‰

  36. I love prompt week too. And I’m probably months behind so I’ve got lots of catching up to do. Exciting times!

  37. Oh, I love hearing which lines of things people like the best. Not just of my things, but of everything. I promise, I am not a megalomaniac πŸ™‚

  38. Thanks–I’m glad to hear it didn’t turn out unbearably bleak. Premise-wise, I have to admit that was a danger πŸ™‚

  39. -On certain occasions when these first three things have ceased to be bad enough, he loves me.-On certain occasions when these first three things have ceased to be bad enough, he loves me.

    as if you were watching him or knew him, or were named Daphne in another lighf

  40. My favorite voices are the ones with a little bit (or a lot) of removeβ€”the ones that tend to view everything as this kind of intellectual black-and-white.

  41. I’m not always in the mood to do a format like thisβ€”brief, image-heavy snippetsβ€”but when I am, it’s like it’s nonnegotiable. It’s just that kind of story.

  42. I’m in love with this community!

    I always wanted to find stories like these and now I’m just speechless…

    what can i say?

    i love it so much!

    apparently I’m going to be addicted to this xD

  43. Oh my! I was just reading The Space Between when a rare burst of recognition hit me. I thought to myself, wait, hold the steel city, didn’t BRENNA write something similar to this? Then I checked the page, and yes, indeed, as I suspected it was YOU as the author (I prefer not to know until the end who the author. It was hard, but I eventually trained myself not to notice it) and began crawling through the archives to discover this story! Of course, I feel like an idiot because I read your comments when it was posted and have compulsively checked your blog for posts, so I’m sure at some point I knew this story was the basis of TSB. I blame it on the trauma of training my brain not to notice blaring details such as authors!

    • Yesβ€”you have an excellent memory! Although TSB in its final incarnation doesn’t bear an awful lot of resemblance to this, they are undoubtedly related, and I’m glad you remembered that it, you know … existed πŸ˜€

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