A History of Scars

parts of a knifeI had a battle with a newly sharpened knife last night, and the knife won. I know better than to cut toward me, force a cut through meat, and all the other rules about handling knives, but it was late, I was tired, and I rushed through deboning a chicken I’d roasted so I could put it away. In less than one second the stainless steel sliced my left index finger just under my cuticle, and I shrieked over to the sink to get cold water on the cut and help numb the sensation. Susanne, firmly in her waddling phase of pregnancy, managed to skeedaddle into the kitchen and assess the damage, so we opted for some gauze and tight tape to staunch the bleeding. I realized, during this morning’s shower, that I am a professional when it comes to keeping recent wounds dry. And this is because I have stabbed and slashed myself accidentally so many times I can barely count the instances anymore.

But let’s try, shall we?

Spring, 1977, I was 7 years old and a master bike rider, at least according to me. I didn’t, however, understand much about physics, probably because science class consisted of learning about the evolution of horses (yes, Catholic school taught me evolution) and things like cloud formation. Physics knowledge would have shown me before I swiveled my handlebars that one cannot continue driving forward if the front wheel is changing the angle of direction. Instead I learned this the hard way, by crashing to the pavement, chin first. My father brought me in to our house, blood gushing from my head, and we made our way to the emergency room. Those were my first seven stitches.

At 14, I took a Saturday pottery class at the community college, and I loved playing with the wheel and seeing which forms could hold shape. I even enjoyed starting over with a gray lump of clay. But because the class only met once a week, some instructor’s assistant had taken our dried pots and put them back in the bin to be broken down. My mistake here was pointing at my creation while a classmate was hacking away at the clay so it could be wet and broken back down. The pick axe-like weapon found my right index finger and opened up a gash about an inch long, where the end of my digit met my first knuckle.

There’s a short scar on the inside of my left middle finger, where I closed my mother’s Volvo 750 on it while leaving for school one day. I probably was starting off late because of a doctor’s appointment—an epileptic, I had a lot of those as a kid—and it was just terrific to go through the rest of my classes with a throbbing middle finger. I imagine I held it up a lot to show people. A hurt middle finger is something akin to a get out of cursing free card.

My mother, a fan of crafts all through the 70s and 80s, was never far from an Xacto knife. Again I took the challenging route toward self-education by fiddling with the knob on the knife and voila, the sharpest blade I’d ever encountered came whizzing out from the handle and I barely felt the sting before I saw all of the blood rushing out of my right ring finger, again on the meaty pad, ending at the side boundary of my cuticle. Unfortunately, my mother has a difficult time with the sight of blood, so I rushed to the bathroom to remedy myself before she could faint.

My brother David scoffed at the way I did the dishes after dinner, telling me the water wasn’t hot enough and convincing me that unless my hands felt like they were about to boil away with the grease, I wasn’t going to kill any germs. Hadn’t we just eaten off these plates, I asked, astonished that we all had managed not to pass away from dysentery by the second course. So I blame him for the fact that I didn’t have great feeling in my hands when I was cleaning the chef’s knife, and how it sank so easily into my right thumb, permanently altering my fingerprint. Oh, those big other brothers. Mine was so overbearing I couldn’t watch The Wonder Years for all of the PTSD it caused. Now I recognize, years later, that he thought pushing his younger siblings around counted for love and affection. I’m also too big to be held under the water in the community pool anymore, too, so that helps.

There may be ways of carrying around one’s history than to see the stories etched on one’s skin, but maybe my body is a bit of a canvas of accidents that way. Perhaps one of these days I’ll start exaggerating the tales.

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Categories: ponderings

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2 Comments on “A History of Scars”

  1. Nicoline
    June 21, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Those are some epic cuts…. I only have one childhood scar. One really hot summer evening my brother and I were allowed to go swimming in a nearby lake. We were normally never allowed out of the house after dinner, so we were in the mood to do all kinds of things we’d normally never dream of. Such as crawling through the water on all fours. Unfortunately, a large piece of glass happened to be embedded, first in the lake bottom and then on top of my right foot. It bled like mad and we had to bike home in a rush, leaving behind a trail of blood that wouldn’t disgrace a horror movie.

  2. evmaroon
    June 21, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Yikes! I stepped on a rusty nail at a campout one night, foot injuries are the worst! Unless one walks on their hands regularly, of course.

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