After I Lost My Family, I Learned The Dark Truth About What Love Really Is

Shutterstock / Carmen Steiner
Shutterstock / Carmen Steiner

Trigger warning: Depiction of graphic violence and detailed self-inflicted injuries.

16 days, 8 hours and 19 minutes ago she told me I didn’t know what love was as she walked out the door. She’s wrong. I know what love is.

Love is sacrifice.

The first time I ever felt love I was 12 years, 4 months, and 6 days old. It was the same day my childhood ended. My sister (9 years, 3 months, and 22 days old) ran into the path of an oncoming semi. My parents, standing nearby, ran to push her out of the way of the oncoming vehicle. They were both killed instantly. Though it was her they saved, I knew through their action that they loved us both with all their (now still) hearts.

My sister and I were awarded the sum of 21.4 million dollars in exchange for our “loss,” but I would have been just as happy to flush the money down the toilet. While I was moved by their sacrifice, my sister didn’t seem to understand the weight of their action. She was too busy being “traumatized” to realize the extent to which our parents loved us. I only felt closer to our parents after their deaths. Everywhere, I went I could feel their love like they’d never left my side.

My sister and I fought constantly after that. Our mother’s parents became our legal guardians after the death of our birth parents, but as the older sister, I was the one who was really in charge, and she hated me for it. Our grandparents did their best to raise us, but the burden of raising teenagers all over again decreased their already short life expectancy. My grandfather died when I was 17 years, 7 months and 12 days old, and my grandmother followed him to the grave 6 months and 2 days later.

Love is sacrifice.

14 days, 12 hours, and 44 minutes ago I used a 3.6 inch paring knife to remove my left pinky toe. The knife was new (purchased for $9.32 with tax) and cut through the skin easily. I swallowed a handful of painkillers (2 oxycontin, 3 generic acetaminophen, 1 hydrocodone) before taking the blade to my flesh. I’m sure I could have done it without them, but they made it easy. The pain was so faint I could forget it was supposed to hurt at all. Cauterizing and bandaging the wound was also easy, feeling like a tickle under the haze of the drugs designed to numb feeling.

After the first toe had been removed I was able to remove the next toe on my left foot 31 minutes and two (250 mg) oxycontins later. It continued to get easier, with each toe taking on average 182 seconds less recovery time than the one before it. The actual cutting was not difficult, but it was time consuming. The actual process of removing the toe and then adding the necessary bandaging took approximately 11 minutes and 30 seconds per toe. Most of that time was devoted to the cutting, which was done with extreme delicacy and precision.

When she leaves, it generally takes 19.25 days for her to return. The toes were packed together in ice and put in the freezer to show her when she comes back. I hoped that the estimated 16.5 days I had left would be enough time to learn how to walk again.

My sister did not love me. I put my life on hold for her in the wake of our grandparents’ deaths. I gave up college scholarships (the highest offering being $64,318.77 per year) and job opportunities to take care of the home and the money. To take care of her. I knew I never needed to work; careful investment had ensured that the money the trucking company had paid to keep our story quiet had actually grown slightly over the years. I still had hoped to do more than merely live off the money my whole life. I gave that up for my sister.

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She would never see it that way. Never see my love. My sacrifice.

When she was 18 years, 4 days, and 11 hours old, she hung herself. I came home to find her dangling in the living room, 4 feet and 7 inches off the ground. I dropped the groceries (a total of $76.53 worth) I was carrying onto the floor and wept as hard as I’d ever wept.

All those years I’d thought she hadn’t cared, but as I watched her lifeless body swing gently I knew she did care, that she’d repaid my sacrifice with her own. I was reluctant to report the death, instead spending hours (32 hours and 48 minutes) talking to my sister, telling her all the things about my life I’d been too scared to tell her. Conversations I’d put off and put off because I thought she’d never care. I could feel her love as she silently listened to my hopes and fears. I never wanted the moment to end.

12 days, 7 hours, and 28 minutes ago, I took the pinky fingers off of each hand. I used a larger knife this time (a 6 inch utility blade), bought as a part of a 15 piece set ($71.67 with tax). Through the blur of painkillers taking the pinky off my left hand was easy, taking only 8 minutes and 12 seconds. Getting the one off the right hand was harder. My left hand is weak as it is, and with the bandaged stub at the end it was difficult to accurately wield the knife. I began to cry frustrated tears as I saw the unsteadiness of the cut I was making. Where I’d cut my left pinky off there was a beautiful, straight slice, but this was jagged and ugly. It took 23 minutes and 46 seconds to remove my right pinky, and a further 7 minutes and 9 seconds using the kitchen shears from the same set to clean up the horribly jagged cut as best as I could.

I considered chopping my whole left hand off, but I knew I’d need it later, so I thought better of it. To alleviate my frustrations, I slashed my left arm up, careful not to hit any major veins. I wrote “ugly” with my knife as my pen and my arm as the paper, and watched the blood flow out. I was ugly, but I was slowly making myself pretty. Making myself pretty enough for her.

I met her at a party 2 years, 2 months, 5 days, 4 hours, 9 minutes and 59 seconds ago. I didn’t get invited to many parties, but occasionally someone would remember me and draw me out of my hermit-like existence. It was the 10th party I had attended in my life.

I didn’t mind being alone for I rarely felt alone. The love of my sister, parents, and grandparents kept me company through the daylight hours when the house I lived in became too oppressive. The massive house (5,422.46 square feet) was too much for a person like me. Most nights at around 3:30 am, I’d begin to feel truly panicked by the size of the house. It was only in these early morning hours that I truly felt alone. I slept less and less, feeling too overwhelmed to get any real rest. Eventually I got to the point where I was getting an average of 2 hours and 39 minutes of sleep each night.

I was lonely.

I arrived at the party and immediately felt I shouldn’t have come. Everyone was pretty. Everyone was so pretty. Except me. I’d never learned how to be pretty. I did my best, but amongst this crowd of beautiful people I stood out as the one who just didn’t fit. After spending 1 hour, 44 minutes and 16 seconds in awkward misery, I had finally formulated my excuse for leaving. I was heading for the door when I saw her and stopped.

She had dark, wavy hair coming down just past her shoulders, and very soft features. Her eyes glittered at me, a wonderful, deep blue. Her beautiful lips seemed to beckon to me, asking me to join her where she sat alone on a small sofa in the corner. I had tried to love a few in the past, having awkward sex with men (4 of them, each affair lasting an average of 5 minutes and 12 seconds) I met in bars, and even going on a handful of dates too pathetic to describe. I realized, looking at her, that I’d been looking at love all wrong. So many people had sacrificed themselves to me, had shown me their love, that I had forgotten that it could go the other way.

I knew, looking at her, that I needed to sacrifice myself to her.

9 days, 5 hours, and 55 minutes ago I used a large knife (8 inch chef’s blade) to remove my ears. It was a much easier process than expected, taking only 1 hour and 17 minutes total. I did it front of the bathroom mirror, watching the blood pour down into the sink. I didn’t put my ears on ice. Instead, I dropped them in jars of preservative with all the earrings still in place. I thought she’d like that.

Looking in the mirror, looking at the bandages on either side of my head and the ones on my hands, I was overwhelmed by how different I looked. I had never felt this good about myself. I went into the kitchen, grabbed the paring knife and cut “pretty” into my arm, overtop the fading wounds that had made up “ugly” days before.

She was going to love me when she came back. I knew it.

She would come back.

I was used to her leaving. In the first six months she never left, always by my side. I began sleeping through the night, even sleeping late some mornings. Every night we’d dress up and go out. Every night, new clothes, a new restaurant, a new concert, whatever we did it was always new. The world seemed bright and new and perfect with her.

She left for the first time 6 months and 7 days after we met. I had done something wrong, offended her in some way. When she told me she wasn’t coming back that first time I believed her, and I spent the next 8 days and 31 minutes in agony. I slept at most an hour each night. I contemplated suicide, but I knew it wasn’t my right to take my life. It belonged to her now.

After that first time, she’d leave a lot, taking herself away from me every time I stepped out of line. I deserved no better. I belonged to her. So I learned to wait patiently during the times she was gone. When she’d scream and throw things and storm out the door, I’d sit in silence to show my loyalty, my humility.

Love is sacrifice.

On the day she came back, I removed my left eye. I had been considering it since taking my ears off, but I was a little intimidated by the idea. I’d spent more than a week researching how to do it before I finally made my decision.

Numbed by painkillers to the point where I could barely stand, I began by using a pair of extremely sharp sewing scissors (purchased at a local craft store for $16.33 with tax) to remove my eyelids. First the top, then the bottom. The pain was so distant it was almost non-existent. I could feel my eye burning faintly with nothing to protect it, but I ignored it. It would be over soon enough. The next step was to remove the eye from the socket. Wearing a rubber glove (with the pinky flopping, empty) I struggled to get a grip on the slippery orb, but eventually I got a good hold on it and started to tug.

Even through a haze of morphine and oxycontin it hurt. A lot. I screamed and struggled not to black out as I pulled the eye from its socket. After 1 minute and 17 seconds of struggling it came out with small pop. With my eye hanging down in front of my face it was hard to focus. Little bits of distorted vision came through the nerves, straining against the weight of the hanging eye.

The scissors came back out, finishing the job. Suddenly my vision refocused, now singular. I found my depth perception was not as affected as I thought it would be. Blood covered my face. I stuffed the hole with gauze, then put a bandage over it.

I had never felt more beautiful.

I would have stood in front of the mirror all day, admiring myself had I not heard the front door open. There was only one person it could have been. I could not wait to show her what I’d done. I could not wait to show her my love. I rushed as fast as my shaky legs could take me to the front door, holding my eye in my right hand, and there she was.

She stood just inside the entryway, silent, the door not quite shut behind her, staring at me. Her facial expression was totally unreadable. The silence stretched out. After 83 seconds of waiting for her to say something I took a shaky step forward, offering her my eye.

“Don’t you think I’m beautiful?” I asked.

She didn’t say anything. She knocked my severed eye out of my hand. It hit the wall, bursting open, leaving a trail of white goo down to the floor. Then she slapped me across the face. The recent wounds I had inflicted on myself roared with pain, but it was quickly made dull by the mess of painkillers working their way through my veins.

“I love you,” I said.

She screamed at me. If she said words, I could not understand them; they were just sounds. She pushed me into the corner of the entry hallway, striking me over and over, screaming all the way through. Finally she wrapped her hands around my throat, digging her fingers in, and using her thumbs to close up my airways.

I did not struggle, even as I felt my vision began to fade. I only smiled as I sank to the floor, quickly losing consciousness.

Love is sacrifice. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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