My scars are a kind of road map to my body. A head-to-toe accounting of injury, accident, illness, or just plain bad luck.
Over my left eye, there is a small white scar that makes a hole in my eyebrow. Chicken pox. I remember sitting in front of the television. I remember my mother telling me that if I kept scratching the pox would scar my face forever. Aged five, I was incapable of imagining the consequences. I scratched. Each morning, I fill in the hole with a Guerlain pencil, "Blonde", and re-think the decision I made.
On my left wrist there are three. The largest two, a skin biopsy to determine the cause of a chronic case of hives. At the time, my friend Mary Anne joked that it would look like I tried to kill myself. Years later, my cat scratched me deeply just above that same scar. The hives cleared up when I moved back to the US. It kind of does look like I attempted suicide.
My right breast has a one inch scar left by a lumpectomy. The lump they removed was just about a centimeter in diameter. It's absence has changed my breast, just as the doctor told me it might, but it wasn't what I imagined. I thought he meant smaller, which would have been fine by me. Instead, my right breast spills over the side of my bra, like rising bread dough over the edge of a pan.
My belly is marked with evidence of naievete. I thought that because I didn't have children I'd be able to keep my figure. Four inches below my belly button a long scar crosses my abdomen and then, on the right side, looks up in a smirk. The skin all around it is slack and numb. Three smaller scars are its constellation - one at the belly button, one where my left ovary was located, and one toward the center. They tried. Too many times. At 3M, my first job, we had a saying, "Right the first time, saves time."
On my left knee, something I will never forget, a massive bicycle accident, aged 9. I wiped out on the pavement in front of my then-house, 961 Absequami Trail, Lake Orion, Michigan. Red Schwinn Three Speed. Just about the time it was healed over, I did it again, re-opening the wound. It would become the small, bumpy, white triangle I still see today. I didn't regain bicycle confidence until I visited Versailles in 1998.
And finally, the inside of my right ankle. A flat, white, one-inch scar left by a shoe when I nearly drowned at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Aged 11. My foot was caught on a rock and the weight of the water pushed me forward and then face down. My sister saw it and came to my rescue. Our parents, barbecuing down the river, didn't believe it happened until they saw my foot.
I'm 38, and I've never broken a bone.
Image credit: Jonathan Rosen