The night before Ash Wednesday, Aaron locked his bedroom door. He pulled a box of chalk out from under his mattress and emptied it over his desk. The pieces scattered like tiny animals. He sat down and stopped one with his hand. He pushed it through half-open lips. Aaron rolled the chalk over his tongue. It cracked under his teeth and his eyes closed. He crushed the chalk, he swallowed, and his second piece was longer than the first.
During dinner the following night, Aaron rubbed his stomach. His forehead itched and when he reached up to scratch it, his mother glared. His father’s voice spoke disembodied:
“You must have decided by now, Aaron. What are you giving up for Lent? Can you tell us yet?”
Aaron had prepared for this; he picked up his fork. “Masturbation.”
The mother let out a small gasp. The rest of the meal was in silence. Aaron was not pressed for more details.
In the night, Aaron can’t sleep. He rocks back and forth on his mattress and misses his chalk. Aaron’s t-shirt clings to shivering muscles. He scratches his forehead and makes sounds that only he can understand.