cutter painties – Copyright © Græ Andresen




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A former flat mate—who despite being super rainforest crunch is still a friend—claims all conflicts arise as a result of unmet needs.

I chalked it up to hippy naiveté. And I would have dismissed it outright if not for the implicit critique of what qualifies as need.

Needs, to her, included the basics: food, water, shelter and clothing as well as safety, fulfillment and love. She argued being alone or unfulfilled in life causes suffering no more or less physically debilitating than hunger or thirst.

Of course, she went on to use the notion as an aide in unpacking geopolitical concerns—an at best reductive approach—which resulted in me dismissing the idea.

I’ve been re-evaluating that decision. It’s partly as a result of learning that in a month I’ll be laid off from perhaps the only job I haven’t utterly reviled. And the one thing making me not despise this job was learning first hand that I was dead wrong to dismiss my friend’s ideas because when it comes to interpersonal relationships in small groups/communities are concerned, meeting or failing to meet individual needs makes all the difference in the world.

Thus, all this messy brain spew gets entangled with this image. 

I can’t claim to be a cutter. On the other hand, claiming I have never cut myself seems a more egregious mistruth. I look at the few small scars that have yet to fade and they do not seem like they belong to me. I never cut to see myself bleed or to feel anything, I cut because in those trance-like moments there was a very real feeling that I was cutting through my body in order to reach something I wanted to destroy with the totality of my being.

It’s the strangest things to feel nothing when presented with my own case; yet, when faced with a cartographic account of similar travels, I ascribe meaning ex nihilo: maplines of unmet needs.

I identify with everything in this image. The clenched fists self-restrained, tightly cinched and pinned by panty elastic to her hips. The three day stubbly growth on the mons pubis—an outward effort to adhere to perceived norms.

There’s further resonance for me: yesterday, I left my desk to wander the deserted world where I work. With all the doors propped open I wondered in an out of buildings. I wasn’t aware that I’d had any destination in mind until I found myself standing in the doorway of the now empty room where the young woman upon whom I have a crush slept, woke and struggled over the nine months. 

All that remained was a silica gel pack against the baseboard, a small sheet of cream cardstock gatefolded with different flavors of tea printed on each section, the corner of a blue and white Nestlé plastic wrapper, a few pennies scattered among a litter of baby dust bunnies. Fingernail clippings on the desk and bureau; sequins and a Bobbie pin in otherwise empty drawers. Three or four Kleenex in a CVS pocket pack behind the mirrored medicine cabinet door above the commode and thin white bar waiting in the shower soap dish.

Presence in absence, it’s the obverse are I’ve known for so long—I no longer cut my body, no longer want to destroy, I just want to break through to reach someone, anyone, to touch and in the moment give a portion of what was given to me back to you.

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