A Constellation of Scars

Perhaps I should slow down. Then again, these scars tell my stories.

Photo: Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

When I was fifteen, we stole a pair of shopping carts from a grocery store parking lot. My brother climbed inside my cart and my friends likewise readied up. The tree-lined street was still and dark, save for the little pools of yellow light.

We raced. The metal carts rattled like they were coming apart. My brother hunched inside our cart and I pushed our inverted dogsled as fast as I could run.

I could run pretty fast. I was tall and lean, and had been on the track team. We were winning.

And then we were flying.

The cart capsized suddenly, abruptly, cartwheeling end over end. My brother somehow remained inside when it landed upside-down, dazed but unharmed.

I landed six feet past the upended cart, skidding on my side. I nearly passed out when I saw how deep the gash went.

For years after, a large scar remained, pink and round, a testament to teenage stupidity. It’s faded now, smoothed over and only detectable to inquisitive fingers, like invisible Braille.

Most of my other scars are more obvious. There’s the one in the shadow of my chin. It doesn’t look anything like Harrison Ford’s famous scar but that’s how I imagine it. I’m pretty sure he didn’t get his in a shuffleboard lightsaber battle gone awry.

The one on the back of my head reemerges when I get a haircut. When I was three or four, I climbed to the top of the bleachers during my dad’s softball game. Somehow I fell, splitting my head open on the gravel.

I’ve been cut, stabbed, and burned. I’ve been in three car accidents. I’ve fallen more times than I can count. I’ve stuck my hand into a spinning ceiling fan (the same fan, multiple times). Each was a painful experience that left a mark behind.

Some scars I have no memory of. They’ve been there as long as I can remember but they are foreign to me, like my own personal Memento. It’s a strange thing to not remember something about your own body.

More worrying is how long it takes my body to heal as I age.

Last summer we took a family vacation to Universal Studios in Florida. I scraped my knee while being jostled about on a fast lazy river. (Okay, I was also horsing around with my son.) The scar is faint now, most of the healing thanks to some special creams, but it’s still clearly there over a year later. I’m starting to wonder if it’ll ever completely fade.

At this rate, I probably won’t even scar by the time I’m eighty. I’ll just bleed from a dozen wounds I don’t remember incurring.

There’s probably something to be said for living a little more carefully, especially since I am (obviously!) prone to clumsiness. But I earned those scars and I feel strangely proud of them. They catalog my life, remind me to be careful with knives, and make me wistful for summer days when I ran with reckless abandon.

This story was published in response to Human Parts’ Weekend Writing Prompt, “Tell the story of your body, its peaks and valleys, strengths and shortcomings and secrets, in whatever way feels true.” To receive prompts like this one every weekend, subscribe to our newsletter by following Human Parts.

EIC of FanFare. Writes about culture, film, TV. Popular Prose column at Writing Cooperative. Top Writer

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