Inside Scarlet

By Joseph Szewczyk


It’s painful to have your veins collapse. I read this one book written by a heroin junkie; he said as much. I never did heroin, but with all the blows to the body, the blocking with my arms and knees, I can sympathize. You feel like all of the life is draining slowly from you. Because it is. All of the blood leaks out on the inside; trapped by a layer of skin.

I’m no junkie, but I have to wear long sleeves to hide my arms. Maybe the pain is different with a junkie; maybe the needle stings or they know it is coming. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to shoot up. Would the pain be different? I don’t know. But this fucking hurts.

The pain isn’t the worse part. It’s the face in the mirror. Every morning I do the same thing. Wake up and walk to the bathroom. Even before I take a piss, I look in the mirror. My eyes are still green, but the pupils are mismatched now. The left one wants to swallow the world; the right hides from the light.

The doctor says this isn’t normal. Like I needed a fucking doctor to tell me two different sized pupils wasn’t normal. No lie. I told him as much. I says to him that I knew that wasn’t how my eyes were supposed to look. I says the thing I want to know is the why behind it. Am I going blind? Did a punch knock them loose? Am I finally brain damaged? No clue he says. He used more words, bigger ones and fancy but they all meant the same. No clue.

No clue how my nose got over there either. See, when I was a kid I used to wake up like the other kids and de-pimple my face. We were too poor to buy that Oxy stuff, so I stole my dad’s bar of Lava. The hand soap for grease heads? Yeah, that’s the one. Pumice Power! Scrubbed my face right off. Raw.

But after the skin healed the zits were gone. I guess it was like sandpapering my face, but a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do, and right now this gal needs to push her nose back into some sort of shape. That bitch broke it last night, pretty sure of it. I don’t really mind the look of the nose that much, heck most guys find it sexy, just my glasses, they tend to sit off kilter on my face with my nose out of place.

Don’t worry this doesn’t hurt a bit. Yeah right. This hurts like a right big mother. I don’t care what Coach says, next time I’m knocking the bitch out. Give them a show he says. Well, he ain’t the one in there having not-so-plastic surgery done on his face. Not my fault everyone else is so prim and priss. Most of them look like anorexic ballet dancers never seen a meal in their life they didn’t use a feather with. I mean I know I threw up before, but that was because I had to make weight. It was that or a tube up my butt; I’ll take a breath mint over an enema any time.

Time? Jesus. I have to get to that stupid interview today. My hair? Medusa’s snakes. Makeup, do my face, fix my tits and piss. Une pisse sans un pète, c’est comme un orchestre ambulant sans trompète. Red top with skirt? Legs, almost as bad as my arms. Stockings. Dark enough? Amanda wears her stockings to cover up hair; mine cover up massive internal bleeding. Who is sicker? Dark dark stockings, dark dark skirt, blood red blouse. Sleeves up to my wrist that puff out a bit over the hand. Not too obvious? I should just put the black lipstick on and heavy liner; tell everyone I’m Goth. Say words like ‘deep’ and ‘Christ was a fake’ and ‘rape is the true self-awareness’ whatever else those Jenny Jones bitches say. Sneakers or sandals? No heels. My balls hurt; damn feet, even the insteps hurt. Cute pink; my favourite Nikes.

I can never find places the first time. The doctor says this might be because my information centre in the brain has been slightly effected. Effected? Affected? Infected? Defective. I see everything on the signs but can’t process their meaning. Last weekend was hell. Brian must think I am a ditz just sitting staring at the menu like that. All the words were a picture, no trees, just the forest.

Clippity clop; clippity clop; clippity clop squawk.

I need to fix these shoes. Wonder if Rayanne wore them out in the rain last night. Dear dear sister, please stop touching my shit before I touch you back. Prolly wore them to see that boy of hers. The creepy guy with one eyebrow. I heard of a unibrow before but this guy, this guy only had one. The left one. Shaved the right to save the whales or Gandhi or something like that. Some political cause he read about in Rolling Stone then got embarrassed about, or maybe it did really burn off in a fire like he said. A fire that destroyed only his right eyebrow and didn’t even singe the lashes. Some fire.

Fire Alarm, second one near the third door. Turn left. I hate the smell of this school. Las Vegas Academy of the Arts. Means Mommy and Daddy are rich and I like to finger paint.

Most of these girls are whores anyway. What are you looking at bitch? Keep walking before I pull the paint off your hair. Costume jewellery freak. Oh, I am so misunderstood as an artist that is why I have to pierce my nose, my ears 13 times one side but 22 times the other, my lip, my chin, my eyebrows, my side of the face, both nipples, three in my cooch, one through clit.

I’m glad my mum and dad are broke. I’m glad I didn’t go to this place. Fucking Lemon Fresh Pledge! That’s the smell, like hospitals stink of ammonia or that one place of old beef stew. Lemon Fresh. Fake lemons, fake tits, fake smile. Big smile now. All teeth. Three thousand dollars of work. Show these babies off.

“Hello, I’m Bianca! You must be Scarlet!”

Who did your nails? Deep red, like the inside of pig guts, extended, fake nails handshake. I think I see small faces painted in black on her nails. ‘Hello, Bianca.’ Fake smile, fake smile, turn to the camera guy. Poof poof poof. ‘Pleasure to meet you, Bianca. I see you have a photographer with you?’ Poof poof poof. The tint from my glasses is starting to fade to indoor use. Poof poof poof. One more triple exposure three-way exploding lightbulb shot and he is going to have that exploding three-way exposure camera shoved up his triple exploding way ass.

“Oh, yes, this is Shaun. He will take some pictures when we are done, if that is okay?”

Skinny runt.  Abercrombie and bitch. Great. The world has been taken over by drones and this place is home base. Frosted blonde tips? Give me a break. ‘That’s fine. I was hoping it would be just us girls, but I am always up for pictures! Maybe we can get some two shots of us done? I’d love to have a copy of them all if I can. Your skirt is simply amazing!’ Amazing that only three other girls I passed down the hall were wearing it. Are they all in some sort of school play?

“We just want to thank you for coming down here! Wow! Scarlet Summers in the flesh! I hear you just won your last fight? So, you are 28-0 now?”

Aren’t I usually offered a drink or at least the opportunity to sit down before the interview starts? Small school press.  Hmmm…28-0. She must mean tournament stats and not fights. Think I had seven fights last night. US Nationals held at the Cox Pavilion. How I wish Nationals were in Florida this year instead of Vegas. Florida, I could go scuba diving off the Keys before coming back. Vegas? Stop at Jack-in-the-Box and drive home. ‘If you are counting just my medal count, then yes; last night over at the Pavilion, I took the US Nationals gold medal in the Light Weight Division. Still undefeated in tournament play.’

“Play? Interesting you say that. I had a few other questions written down for you before this topic, but the word ‘play’, does that mean it’s a game for you?”

Play. She spat the word out like chewed cabbage found in her ice cream. Did she just mock me? Never know what to say to these people. If you say play, they turn it into some sort of sick violent game and try to discredit you; if you say fight, they try to turn it into some sort of sick perversion of daddy didn’t love me enough and try to discredit you. ‘Play. It’s a sport. The Olympic Community calls us ‘players’. We have protective gear, rules and even strategies. Fights aren’t about this brute force display of how hard you can hit or be hit. It’s mostly mental, just a game of chess.’

“But nobody has ever died playing chess before.”

Her lips twisted inward as she spoke. A sneer or a sneeze? Scritidy scratch. Scritidy scratch. Scritidy scratch atch shash. Her pen is going to drive me nuts. I’m not even saying anything what the hell is she writing? Doodles? Shopping list? People she’s blown since lunch time?

‘The only person to die in the ring for Olympic Sport Taekwondo was in the US Open, 1992. A Dutch kid. Even the injuries are limited. Statistically speaking you are more likely to be injured playing a round of golf than you would after a full day of fighting.’ That didn’t sound rehearsed, did it? No no no. I never heard that question before. Is there lipstick on my teeth? Checked, didn’t I? Quick tongue run wouldn’t hurt. Can do it like a big dramatic pause like in that one movie with the actor playing a bad guy looked into the cop’s eyes before he told the truth about the bodies.

“Wow that’s really interesting, you know, I didn’t know that. Oopsie! I didn’t have my tape recorder going. Can we restart those questions? Try to act surprised when I ask them!”

Tape recorder? Go go Barbara Walters. ‘Can’t you just use your notes?’ Or are they just scratches made to drive the person you are interviewing insane with the noise?

“Oh, I’m trying to draw out your hair. I think it’s interesting. Do you have it cut like that for fighting, so you see better or to intimidate your opponent?”

Because they can see it under the protective headgear? What a dumb… wait…did she just say I looked ugly? ‘Got that recorder up yet?’

“Not yet. Like I can’t find it in this bag. Hope I didn’t leave it at home, I know Mom put it out for me today, she always does this, she always puts stuff so I can’t find…”

‘Shaun, could you be a darling and get me some Starbucks? Just a caramel frap will be good.’ That should take care of Mr Poof Poof. Off the record care time. No cameras. Yes yes, take my money. Wave. Bye Shaun. Bye! ‘Maybe if I helped you look? Would that help?’

She didn’t say anything, silence is consent. That’s what Brian said before. Firm grip? Loose grip? Gentle? Firm? Death. Big smile, though. Full teeth. ‘Now that it’s just us ladies, I just wanted to say, if you ever treat me like that again in a question, or even walking down the street, I will kick your teeth in and rip that nose ring right off your face, you fucking spoiled mummy’s angel bitch.’  Jesus don’t start crying. What the hell is wrong with this girl, I can’t even make myself clear without her hysterical?

“I…I didn’t mean any…I…”

‘Hey look! You found your tape recorder! See, always the last place you look. Let’s get back to the questions! I’ll even act surprised, just for you, since you know how I feel!’

B.: Many of our readers are young women trying to find a positive outlet in life. Do you think that Taekwondo has given you such an outlet?

S.: Bianca, it has given me an outlet to express myself in ways I didn’t think possible before. Painters paint, musicians sing or compose or play, writers write, but for Taekwondo we use our whole body; body, mind and spirit. (laughs) Plus if I have a bad day, I can always take it out on the training bags or the boys!

B.: The boys? You mean you get to fight against them too? Aren’t you afraid a little bit?

S.: Oh, I can take care of myself. I always said if you really want to go far as a woman in this sport, you need to fight the men. Beat them. Man or woman, we are all people; gender shouldn’t matter in the ring.

B.: I meant afraid of making yourself look bad in front of them. I don’t know about the boys you hang out with, but ours might think twice about asking a girl out that gave them a black eye. Do you have a problem dating?

Do I need to explain things to her again? A problem dating? Am I just this monster that everyone should fear? This rotted crotch across from me is going to ask about my lack of dating? ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. I thought you asked if there was anyone special I was dating?’

“No, well, you know, it’s just that, like you might be kinda scary to people, like that joke you did to me before.”

‘I am pretty sure you asked about anyone I am dating from Taekwondo or where I would find great guys to pick from, right?’ If you can get into the opponent’s head, you win. Fast, strong, quick and the dead. Don’t matter a thing if you control that head. If you can control that girl from the Chinese team last year, 132 lbs of vicious, you can control this skank. Stare deep, fix the eyes, is she looking at my tits? Laser beam eyes shoot death rays the town burn this sucker down to where she belongs in a zoo, hello I’m looking at you. Higher, there we go.

“Right. Ummm…where did you find your boyfriend from?”

Control, match set, game point. Easy win. My boyfriend? Hun? Where did I find my boyfriend? In my underwear drawer stealing clothes. That’s the answer you want to hear, isn’t it? Just once we should tell the truth, get to the point, stick on the topic, accelerate through the banal. Hit the crowd running.

‘I met Brian at class. He is an underbelt testing this May. He looked so lost and hopeless; I guess I just go for that type.’ Sugar sweet, toothache, diabetic coma. At least I didn’t say he had dreamy eyes.


‘You see, in Taekwondo there are ten basic levels before black belt, we call those the underbelts. From White to Recommended Black; after the last one the candidate waits for at least a year before testing for their black belt.’ Another stellar robotic response.

“So, he is just starting out and is going out with the US National Lightweight Champion? Must be nice, if he ever gets out of line you can just take it out on him the next day. Woman Power!”

‘Woman power? I’m one person. One singular sensation, I’m Scarlet power, don’t rest the yoke of all womanhood upon my shoulders. Why do you guys feel the need to always label or thrust or try to make people out to be heroes, stars, walking morality lessons?’ Probably shouldn’t say that. Probably should brush that one off. World was built upon a probably.

“I didn’t mean you represent all women, just that you should. You have the heart of the town, everyone is talking about you, why not use it for good? Why not just push your ideas on others? Isn’t that why you are doing this interview for? To push your ideas on others? To make yourself heard?”

‘Heard? By this high school of vampires and addicts? Clones? Soulless leaches with nothing to do but suck off my life? Siphon it for their school rag tag dead line?’ All forms of communication seem to be breaking down. Madness is surely to follow. Hairs raise, breathing slows (I can feel it expel, my lips catch my vision, open gape mouth), weight of my lungs expands the chest, shoulders drop into neutral. Is she getting up from the chair?

My heel plants on her chest, silicone feels like a kicking pad, my leg presses her back into her seat. Thank God no high heels; would have punctured the implants if I had my 2” on. Best thing about Taekwondo, we never get our hands dirty. ‘Qu’est-ce que cinq doigts disent à une face?’

“Wha…what are you…”

‘Slap!’ A good connection. Dirty hands never hurt anyone, well maybe just the other person.

Pitter patter. Pitter patter. Pitter pater teneo optimus. Small footsteps by the door, fairies wear boots, you’ve got to believe me.

Shaun is back with the frap. Could I convince him that Bianca just had a nose bleed? Was the blood on my poofed out cuffs too much of a giveaway? Why couldn’t Shaun be like the last photographer, the chatty blind girl talking about driving some guy’s car through the desert? Commere lala boy, let Scarlet make you a man. This won’t hurt a bit unless you resist then maybe something bad will happen.

jo s

About Joseph Szewczyk:  I’m a dude with a magazine (Ricky’s Back Yard) that does print and online issues with all proceeds going to charity.  Last issue we did a Vet only issue and all money went to a small vets group for disabled veterans; this coming issue we are doing an LBGTQ theme with all money going to the Trevor Project (LBGTQ teen suicide prevention).  My day job is this university:
You can find me on Twitter at @_chefcheck_ where I am most notable for getting in fights with Norm  MacDonald over literature.

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