Two Birds With One Cleaver
by Alex Reynard
Most people don't understand Body Integrity Identity Disorder. I've seen it referred to countless times in YouTube comments- usually by people who don't even know what it's called- as the go-to definition of 'crazy person'. Or they use it as an argument against trans. As if. 'We gotta accept guys cutting off their dicks? Then why not accept those wackos that wanna cut off their arms and legs too!?' Well, yes, darling, why DON'T we? What happened to freedom of the individual? Maybe your tiny Cro-Magnon head could spin that idea of yours around a bit and consider that maybe the desire to get rid of a penis or a limb might come from the same place deep down inside, hm?
Still, it's not an idea that normally crosses people's minds. 'All I want for Christmas is to be in a car accident that shears off my left arm but miraculously leaves my face pristine.' If the topic's broached they think about loss of function. All the things they wouldn't be able to do. 'Oh dearie me, no more jumprope! Gasp!' And such. But, darling, I feel exactly the same way about my right arm! I love it! Look how dainty my hand is. I can write in cursive, catch a Frisbee, or beat my meat. I certainly wouldn't want to be apart from it.
But my left. Ugh.
I'll try my best to explain. But you're going to have to use your imagination for this. Remember that? The thing you used to have in kindergarten? Anyway, imagine you have a parasite hanging off you. I mean a really BIG one. A huge, slimy, ugly, drippy, hairy, sweaty alien leech digging its repulsive little teeth into your skin. And wiggling all the time! Eeewww!!! Wouldn't you want to get rid of it? But then- stay with me- what if everyone else had them too? And they all thought you were dangerously insane for wanting to get rid of yours? Wouldn't that drive you nuts? Like living in the Twilight Zone? You've not only got this godawful thing hanging off your body, you also have to deal with the rest of the world gaslighting you about it!
Yes, I know, no one's trying on purpose to make me feel crazy. It's something in my brain, yes, yes. But so is an itch. Imagine an itch that lasts your entire lifetime. One that never stops and you can never get used to. Just day and night forever! Itching! I don't know what it is in my messed-up grey matter that made me see my left arm as some godawful Lovecraftian tumor, but it was there from my earliest memory. And I did NOT just make it up! I wasn't just sitting in class one day thinking, 'I wanna grow up to be just like the drummer from Def Leppard!' No. It was never a choice. Imagine that parasite again. Not just the look of it, but the weight of it. Like a diseased pork loin stapled to your shoulder. Flopping around when you walk. Lying there in bed with you whenever you try to sleep. Ugggghhhh! I'm giving myself flashbacks now.
And it wasn't the result of any trauma either. My parents were wonderful. They didn't understand me any more than a bear understands a helicopter, but they tried, bless them. They dragged me to endless doctors, who didn't know any more than they did. They kept trying to 'get to the undiscovered root of my self-loathing'. Christ! 'I don't hate my left arm, doc, I want it GONE because it's not supposed to BE there! If a tree grows in your livingroom and you want it uprooted, it's not because you've got a secret Freudian hatred of trees!'
I'm getting upset. Another glass, perhaps?
Anyway, if you can picture Junior Me having to grow up with all this baggage, maybe you can begin to imagine why I let myself get hooked by Russell.
You know what they say about sociopaths and surface charm? In spades, sweetheart. He was perfect when I met him. Gorgeous like he'd stepped right out of some teenager's bedroom beefcake photo. Cock like a Louisville slugger. Biceps that could crush oil drums. Or ribs.
I was easy prey. My self-esteem was a scattering of scrambled jigsaw puzzles. I was drawn in like a whirlpool. He made me feel wanted. Necessary. Like I connected somewhere. And when I told him I didn't like my left arm and would appreciate if he never touched it, he just said...
Do you understand? Can you even begin to?
After a lifetime of having everyone I knew fight me when I told them, trying in their well-meaning way to convince me out of my delusion, to fix me... To be accepted as I was... No questions asked...
Can you see now, why I fell?
The danger signs were posted, brightly lit, but I drove right past them. Russell paraded me around on his arm like a pet cockatoo. His skinny little sweepstakes prize. And it was nice at first, the attention. To be looked in the eye instead of sidelong glances. Some of his friends even found out my secret. They liked it! They all went 'Oooooh!' like it was some fascinating quirky oddity. Patronizing, to be sure. But you have to admit, a hell of a lot better than getting chased down and beat up after school. Sure, I'd make that trade. You would too.
I didn't realize until it was too late that I was never a person to Russell. I was an ornament. An accessory. An accouterment. Something to make him look good. A sheath to stick his sword in. Oh, yes, I almost forgot the main reason why victims often stay with their abusers: the sex was magnificent. What is it about sadists? I can almost understand why people fetishize the Gestapo. Why is it someone can pound you with cruel words and it makes you feel like suicide, but then they pummel your guts in bed and it makes you want to grovel at their feet? Fucking biology. Mother Nature, what a jackass, right?
And yes, before you ask, it was more than just cruel words. Russell's witty asides about my arm were almost playful at first. Then they became a way to chew down my self-confidence if I ever got out of line. And then he began to hit me. Sometimes, when he was particularly in a mood, he'd grab my wrist and slap me with my own left hand, just because he knew it'd sting more. Or he'd punch me in the kidneys. Or grab me by the cock and squeeze till it turned blue and I squealed for him to let me go.
He wasn't a nice man, is the gist I hope you're getting.
But that surface-level charm... Ay, there's the rub. Russell was connected. He collected social media accounts like Pokémon. And he was so good at fooling people. Making them think whatever he wanted them to. Projecting innocence. It was impressive to see, honestly. Picture a 6'4" Schwarzenegger somehow convincing you he's as meek and harmless as a baby lamb. Whenever I displeased him, he'd invent a new story for his friends about how I was manipulating and controlling him. Carefully framed, of course, like he was just relating some whimsical domestic anecdote. You see the shrewdness in that? Letting his followers put two and two together on their own? 'You poor dear, don't you see what he's doing to you?'
You don't have to lock someone in a room to isolate them. You can poison their relationships. Give them no safe ground to run to. I actually have to admire Russell's sheer skill. He was a virtuoso at hurting me.
I considered killing him, sure. But really. Look at me. I'd be a community cum sock in prison. Nuts to that. Besides, I just couldn't. Some dumbass piece-of-shit part of me still loved him. I had to leave him though; that I was certain of. The injuries were piling up, and starting to show, which made him even worse. I was breaking his illusion, you see. If I didn't get out soon, I'd end up scrunched in a suitcase and buried in a cornfield somewhere.
So then I thought, 'Can I be the person he accuses me of? Can I become the sneaky little serpent his friends all think I am?'
When the idea came, it was so simple, so beautiful, so perfectly gift-wrapped, I must have giggled into my pillow for hours after it struck me.
And he never suspected a thing. Thought I was learning sewing as a nervous habit. Thought I was reading up on beef carving just to make him fancy dinners. He never even asked about the taxidermy book. Maybe he thought I brought it home from the library by mistake. Such a ditzy boyfriend!
Finally my big day arrived. I got all naked and climbed into the bathtub with my cleaver and thread. Marked the skin like a pork joint. Started parting it with the..
Ohhhh, I see your face! You're wanting me to spare you the gory details. Except you're lying to yourself. Gory details are always the best ones, and don't we all know it? People squirming and cringing at those pimple-popping clips. You can binge-watch botfly extractions and cyst lancing for hours on YouTube. They're awful, but they're fascinating. We want to know how our insides work, don't we? We want to see the extremes of what can go wrong in all that meat. And the satisfaction of seeing something gush.
How did I do it without passing out from blood loss, you ask? That was a roll of the roulette wheel, I admit. I psyched myself up to accept the possibility this might end up a suicide. Whoopsie! Though I preferred to keep on the living side if that were possible. I did my homework like a good little bookworm. I had all my supplies. I knew just where to cut. And believe me, I had the will to do it. I'd been wanting to since I was sleeping in footie pajamas.
First thing I can tell you is, Vicodin is as close as we mortals get to the touch of an angel. 800 milligrams of that stuff and getting slashed by Freddy Kreuger would feel like a Shiatsu. I had a few left over after one of Russell's generous hospital invitations, which was more than plenty. Tourniqueting my shoulder was like giving it a hug. The scalpel felt a Magic Marker. The cartilage was awfully stubborn though, but it beat bringing in a power saw and going through bone. Eventually, POP! The whole thing came off! Happy New Year! I'm sitting there absolutely drenched in blood, holding up my arm like I'm Mrs. Nesbit at tea time.
Except... I didn't feel like a broken doll. I felt whole. For the first time ever, my body felt like it had always been meant to be. Can you even begin to understand? I'd spent my whole life wanting to be rid of this rotten, dangling slab. And now it was off. I was free of it. Forever. I have never felt so happy in my entire life. Nothing has even come close. It was like I could finally exhale after holding my breath for twenty years. Like my heart could finally beat after being drowned in tar.
But I couldn't get lost in my euphoria. That was important. Didn't want to pass out and meet the Grim Reaper, now did I? I'd studied sewing patterns and left plenty of skin to cover the wound. And of course I'd practiced sewing one-handed. Thankfully, the Vicodin was still being my best friend and the needle felt like a kiss. Some Dermabond to seal the seams, pack it in tight with gauze, and there we go. Nice and tidy. That just left the five-fingered bane of my existence lying in the tub beside me. I gave it the finger. Why not? Good riddance.
Now here's the part I can't help but pat myself on the back for. I sucked up all the blood with a splendid little shop vac and got myself squeaky-clean in the shower. Afterwards, I fetched the arm from the sink and hacked at the muscle a bit in the correct angles to simulate a defensive posture. Then I tossed it in the bottom of the tub with the "murder weapon", and switched the shop vac on in reverse! Instant bloodbath! ...Pardon my pun.
Russell wasn't the only one who could manipulate perception. His online followers were one thing, but the people in the apartments around us certainly heard our fights more than enough times. And never got involved, natch. I'd waited for one of these nights so I wouldn't have to fake my screams. My shower scene was the following morning, after Russell left for work. Then I vanished down the maintenance stairs where I had an Uber waiting. I called the cops and told them I was a Grubhub driver who'd heard some terrible noises the night before. They might want to check it out. Someone might've gotten hurt. And did I leave a few telltale drops of blood on the apartment doorknob to create probable cause for a warrantless search? Oh yes I did!
I absconded to a motel and met up with one of my friends; Russell didn't drive them ALL away. Chaz was always the sly one. We knew each other as kids. He was one of my bullies, actually, but he grew up out of it, and took on an 'it takes one to know one' mindset. He saw this as making amends. Such a champ. I tried to kiss him but he's married to a female. Eyeroll.
Anyway, the whole thing played out deliciously. I'd put one of those teensy-weensy fiber optic cameras up in the ceiling weeks before. We streamed it to Chaz' laptop and laughed our asses off when Russell came home to an apartment crammed with cops! Oh, how he howled! Pleading, crying, trying to tell them all about his crazy roommate! But you see, most people don't understand Body Integrity Identity Disorder. And when the cops find a severed arm in a bathtub during a domestic violence call, they go with Occam's Razor. 'Your boyfriend wanted to cut off his arm? Sure, pal. And I'm the Queen of England.' I cackled myself hoarse at seeing him marched away in handcuffs. Seeing him made small for once.
Of course, they'll see through my brilliant plan eventually. Cops aren't as omniscient as they're shown in crime dramas, but they're not stupid either. My BIID was well-documented. And there's no rest-of-me lying around decomposing anywhere. Russell will get off someday. Though if he doesn't, you won't see me shed a tear. A nice dose of prison rape might even do him some good.
No, the name of the game here is 'distraction'. A big flashy stage illusion, to allow me time to get away. Chaz drove me to to the train station; they give SOOO much less of a shit about security there than airports! God, it was refreshing! We paid in cash. I bounced from place to place, hiding my scent, and wove my way to a far-off land which was under the spell of those three magic words: No Extradition Treaty.
All in all, everything's wrapped up quite nicely, I think. Tied up with a bow.
Russell might find me someday here. I know. But I'll be ready for him. Home field advantage. I have new friends now. And they've never heard his lies. Some of them are bigger than him. I'm not too worried.
I look over my shoulder sometimes, yes. But mostly to admire my beautiful new stump! Isn't it cute!? Look how shiny, soft, and squeezable it is! You bet your ass I'm proud of the job I did on the stitching. The scars make a little swirly star pattern, you see? They've faded quite a bit. You'd think I was born this way. Some people have, actually! I cannot even describe what a shiver I get at hearing that! The nicest complement possible. And no phantom limb syndrome! Can you believe it!? The cherry on top! I'd been so worried about that! I have dreams where it's still there sometimes but... It's gone. Gone for good. Like my body always knew it should be. Hugging myself one-armed just feels so, so right...
But enough about me. I've been dying to ask all evening.
How'd you lose those legs of yours, cutie?