The Absence of It by Adrienne Marie Barrios

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Shadows frighten me, lately. Shadows of my own body that I actively make. My body floating across the top of the chair until the whole of it sits in darkness; my fingers cascading through a bright portal of light slashed across the cherry wood of the hallway floor like a warning. 

When I realize it was me, should I feel better? I don’t. I feel worse. 

I pull at the skin on my lips until I taste blood, no matter how many times I tell myself I’ll stop. When it grows back in small sheets, the edges lift up again, some sheer kind of scab, and I feel them with my tongue, on my other lip, on his—

I can’t stand it. 

I can’t stand the thought of him not being able to stand it. 

I can’t stand the way my lips look on camera, mottled mauve on pale skin. There’s either blood or the reminder of blood, but never the absence of it. 

I wonder how long I would have to bleed to get there: the absence of it.

Adrienne Marie Barrios is a disabled, neurodivergent writer and editor. She writes about mental health and relationships, the interplay between the two and the external world. Her work has been featured in such magazines as X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, Punt Volat, Drunk Monkeys, and superfroot. She serves as editor-in-chief for Reservoir Road Literary Review and edits award-winning novels. Find her online at

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