TRIGGER WARNING: SELF-HARM, GORE
We call them ‘Peelers’. Some of them
are return customers, while others only come in the one time and leave in
tears, streaking blood across the diner floor. What they do is called
‘peeling’, and it’s the new dumb fad kids are into nowadays. I’d rather see
them choke on snorted condoms than peeling in our bathroom stalls, because at
least the condoms don’t make a bloody mess.
From what I hear, peeling isn’t
really a self-harm kind of thing like cutting is, it’s more of a rite of
passage, the way some kids challenge each other to see who can hold their palm
over an open flame the longest. In the case of peeling, instead of a flame,
they use a potato peeler and see who can peel off the longest chunk of skin in
a single curl. The whole thing is so dumb on so many levels.
can usually tell when a group is about to do it. They shoot each other this
conspiratorial look over the tops of the menu they hide behind and, one by one,
sneak into the bathroom when they think no one’s looking. It’s usually guys,
but some girls do it too. I try to stop them when I can, but I’m not a
babysitter, and I’ve got paying customers to serve, so I can’t always get
involved in their dumb dick measuring contest.
I was concerned back when they first
started peeling a few weeks ago, but I quickly realized most kids
can’t handle the pain. They usually only manage to cut a small sliver – about
the size you’d scrape off by accidentally slashing yourself with your thumbnail
– but, I’ve seen a guy run out of the bathroom with blood-soaked napkins from
his wrist to halfway up his forearm. I guess some people handle the pain better
manager joked about putting up a ‘No Skin, No Service’ sign in the window, but
that’d be about as good a deterrent as candy wrappers on a dick.
thought I’d become desensitized to the whole thing, more annoyed than
concerned, but last night, the sick practice was taken to a whole other level.
If I seem nonchalant now, it’s not because I’m desensitized: it’s because I’m
probably still in shock.
had been a busy night at the diner, and as a result, I’d not been as vigilant
as I could have been. I was running from table to table, dealing with drunks
and kids from the high school across the street coming in for a post
end-of-year-dance snack. It felt like half the student body came through our
door that night, and by closing time, I was so exhausted and eager to get home,
I forgot to lock the door before I flipped the ‘Open’ sign over to the ‘Closed’
was in the back sweeping the floor when I heard the chime of the bell above the
door. By the time I got to the front of the diner, there was no one there. I
figured whoever had opened the door saw the place was empty and the lights were
dimmed, and so they’d walked back out in search of a fast food place. It never
occurred to me to check the bathrooms.
locked the front door and went back to sweeping, telling the chef it was
earned the least amount of tips that night – short by a mere dollar fifty –, so
it was my job to clean the washrooms while the other waitresses left out the
back door. The manager was in his office, looking over inventory or something
and waiting for me to finish up so he could lock up. No greater motivator to go
fast than to know your boss is waiting on you. I cleaned the girl’s washroom in
no time, and then hauled a large box of cleaning supplies into the boy’s much
The first thing I noticed was the
potato peeler sitting in the urinal farthest from the door. Someone’s mom was
going to be very upset they’d lost it, I thought. On the other
hand, it had probably been peed on all night – probably used as target practice
–, so it was best it never be used for food ever again. I scooped it up with a
wad of paper towels and tossed it in the bin. That’s when I noticed the brown
leather belt peeking out from under the stall.
thought. Look, if you’re going to have sex in a diner bathroom, at least have
the decency to grab your clothes on the way out. You have no idea how many
socks and panties we have to throw away in a month. It’s a lot. I wadded up
paper towels again because my hands are never touching anything that’s
been on the floor of that bathroom, and then reached down to take it.
there even a way to describe what it felt like to lift it? It had the color and
size of a belt, it was as heavy as one, but it didn’t have the right thickness
or rigidness. It was like grabbing an unspooled fruit-by-the-foot, only it was
warm and wet and made a slippery noise as I pulled it from the ground, like the
sound of stepping off a fresh turd on a blistering summer day. I dropped it and
it went limp on the ground, splattering a light dusting of blood on the tiles
and over my feet.
was automatic. I’d dropped something, so my instinct was to pick it up and not
drop it again. I bent over and grabbed the feeble belt, and as I did, I saw it
stretched all the way into the stall, and coiled around in a messy spiral much
much larger than any belt. It was more like a stringy blanket. Part of me knew
and understood what I was seeing, but as I pushed open the stall door, my
lizard brain kicked in and poured a thick syrup of numb disbelief over my mind.
I started to pull at the string of skin, unspooling it with ease. I lost the
paper towels somewhere along the way, flesh touching wet, slippery flesh as I
unravelled the blanket.
single, continuous string, like flawlessly peeling a potato in one shot.
I didn’t even feel sick, I just
acted, I just cleaned because that’s what I was in the bathroom for.
I put this massive mound of skin in a garbage bag and, staring blankly, exited
the bathroom with the intention of tossing it in the bin outside.
then I noticed the streaks of blood on the floor I hadn’t seen earlier, because
the box of cleaning supplies had been blocking the view. Still in shock, I
dropped the bag of skin and followed the streaks of blood by gaze all the way
down to a booth by the window. In the dim light, I could see a silhouette
staring back at me. A puddle was forming beneath him.
peeked out from the side of the booth, and I thank my lucky stars the lights
were too low to properly see his face, though my mind constructed the image
regardless, based on memories from anatomy class.
movements were lethargic, and he sluggishly raised a hand and snapped his
fingers, or he tried to. The sound wasn’t a snap, but a sloshing of liquidy
sinew against liquidy sinew. He spoke weakly, “Menu please.”
backed away, slowly inching my way to the manager’s office. I heard the
splatters of children’s wet feet running by the pool coming from the seating
area as I breached the threshold to his office. I mumbled something about
calling the cops, but I don’t think my words made sense. The blood on my
uniform spoke on my behalf, and the boss quickly shut and locked the door
waited in the office for ten long minutes. Him, trying to get more information,
me, barely able to string a single coherent sentence together. When the cops
finally showed up, the skinless man was gone, leaving a trail of blood all the
way to the back door.
At least he had the courtesy of
taking his skin with him.