Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chicks Dig Scars

Actually, I don’t know if that’s true or not. Perhaps scars link a man to a mystique of ruggedness, stories of danger, peril, and adventure, a careless abandonment of life and limb, or an element of the bad boyism that some women are oddly attracted to. Maybe chicks dig how the guy got the scar in the first place. “I got that one in a knife fight in Caracas, and this one? I was a bush pilot hunting the infamous Enkidu in the Himalayas. When I woke up, I was hanging upside-down in his ice cave and all I had to free me was my light saber.” Really.

However, never in my life has a woman come up to me and commented on the attractiveness of any of my visible scars (not that I have that many visible ones), and even Kara, my wife, who is bound by law to love the entirety that is me, has never quivered at the sight of any of them—even the dashing one above my left eye… or the one she caused—exclaiming in a sultry voice, “Ooo, baby, show me your knee again. I like a man whose open wounds have healed.” In fact, I think I’d be a little suspicious of her if she did.

To me, scars are like little dents on your car, each one a memory of something that happened to you over the years, proof that you didn’t just spend the time on the couch, and as I reach out for my middle-30s, most of my childhood-related incidents that left a mark on the topography of my body are beginning to fade, like erosion from the winds of time. I’ve lived with most of them for so long, I can tell you where all of them are and were, even the ones that are long gone (I shaved off a good chunk of my left thumb while whittling a smaller stick out of a bigger one when I was 12, and that scar is completely gone but I remember where it was), and since I spend a lot of my day looking at my hands (when I can’t think of a word while writing, I sometimes stare at them as some kind of inspiration—at least that’s where all the letters are), I know my scars like I know…well, the back of my hand. I have three on my left hand and four on my right, but with just a cursory glance at them, you probably wouldn’t see any scars at all. But they’re there.

I was helping one of Kara’s friends move out of her apartment, and while carrying out a couch, I crushed my right hand between the soft couch and a surprisingly resilient thermostat on the wall, right on the corner. It hardly bled and it didn’t hurt, which surprised me, but it was deep enough that it left an inch-long scar. Though it was 10 years ago, the scar is still there, a thin line of slightly raised skin.

On my left index and middle finger knuckles, there used to be two rounded discolorations caused by a severe burn while at work at a coffee shop in 1994. I was busy chatting with the customer while steaming some milk (for a cappuccino) and wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. The milk boiled over, scalded most of my hand, and when I let go of the metal carafe, it slid down on my two fingers that were stuck in the handle. I think I heard them sizzle, and later that night, I was at a friend’s house who had an aloe plant in his backyard. I tore off a gooey leaf and taped it to my knuckles for a couple of hours. It helped ease the pain. The scar is gone, but sometimes I catch of glimpse of it if the light is right.

The weird one came from Kara. This was probably a few months after I proposed to her, and she was still a little unaccustomed to the ungainly size of the one-carat diamond I gave her. Frankly, I’m surprised she didn’t just topple over to her left every time she tried to lift her left hand. We were on a walk (believe it or not, we usually did some form of exercise—the gym, the track or just a walk—on a daily basis before we had kids) and I don’t know how she did it, but her hand swung into mine and her ring gashed open the back of my hand. I bled like a stuck pig. Was that an omen? Maybe someone was trying to tell me something (maybe it was Kara!). The scar is just now fading away.

Knees always get the brunt of everything, and mine are no different. They’re as scarred up as a pious Catholic, both of them, but the largest scar I ever had has finally all but disappeared. In the eighth grade, I took journalism as an elective for my sixth period class, and during an intramural softball tournament (where all of the sixth period classes played each other), I earned a four-inch-long abrasion sliding into first base. Actually, I was sliding back into first base. The batter after me popped a fly ball that was caught, but by then I had already started toward second. The outfielder fired the ball to the first baseman and since I didn’t want to get tagged out (I know, it would have been a forced out), I decided that sliding was my best method, in shorts. My right leg ended up tucked under me and I dragged it along the ground into the first base. By the end of the day, my sock was soaked in blood, and by the end of the month, a long red scar was formed.

A few inches down from my knee on that same leg, I had a crescent moon shaped scar that has finally become difficult to find. Kara and I were boating off the coast of Cape Cod in a friend-of-the-family’s boat, and the current pushed the motor into a large clump of reeds. Since turning on the motor might have caused the blades to clog, we decided to push it out of the shallows. As I jumped overboard, I don’t know what kind of metal debris I landed on, but it sliced a gapping hole in my shin; since it never closed right, I had a deep red scar there that has finally returned to the regular color of my skin.

Which leaves hope for my other knee. Remember the garrulous story about taking the Single Cab to Subway and having to push start it in the parking lot, where I subsequently slashed open my knee? Sure you do. Fine, here's the link, but you should really pay better attention to my blatherings. Well, I’ve still got this nasty scar on my knee (photo at right), and to add to the misery of having to look at this on a daily basis, it itches like you wouldn’t believe, like I’ve got a colony of ants crawling around just under the skin. I can’t wait for this one to go away.

Okay, last one. You may have seen this one, just above my left eye, a small but jagged criss-cross scar I got in the Spring of 1993. It was the last day of the quarter at Cal Poly, Pomona, and, as usual, most of my fraternity brothers and I spent a good portion of the day in the Beer Bar (formally known as Take Five… it had a movie theme for some reason). Theoretically, you can only drink so much beer in a small, dark little bar without the urge to venture outside and see what the sun is up to, and so a bunch of us thought it to be fun to go back to my apartment (I lived across the street at the time) and go swimming. It was a wonderfully warm day.

While splashing around like idiots, excuse me, drunken idiots, Steve and Clint (their last names will be withheld for the sake of the guilty) started tossing people up in the air and back into the pool. I thought to myself, “Hey, that could be fun!” Me next! Now, most times in my life when I thought to myself “Hey, that could be fun!” it actually turned out that it wasn’t fun and I ended up doing some damage to myself. Take swinging on a wet soccer goal post as an example. September 26, 1986. Other kids were doing it before soccer practice. “Hey, that could be fun!” I said, and snap! Off to the hospital with a broken arm.

Well, there was no snap this time, but a dull thump as my face hit the bottom of the pool (we were smart enough to do this in the shallow end). I stood up, a little dazed, and Robert pointed out that I was bleeding. I hadn’t really noticed (drunk remember)… then I really didn’t care too much (drunk remember) and then it started to bleed a lot (drunk remember), and I mean a lot.

Our first mistake was going to the Heath Center on campus, but I had never been there before, so I didn’t know what they did. Now, we would have been okay if we needed condoms, aspirins or to talk to someone about a burning sensation (and then they’d tell you that you should have come in for some condoms), but it was clear from pre-med Dr. Rico that I needed stitches. And that was one of many things the Health Center didn’t do apparently. Instead of thanking them graciously for their time and retreating back to our car in search for a more suitable place to get above said stitches, I decided it was a great time and place to argue the case that my tuition demanded a facility that could give me stitches (remember, drunk). As a footnote here, surprisingly enough, that wasn’t that last time I would yell at bystanders in the healthcare field.

So, we drove all the way up to Glendora to my hospital of choice and we sat in the waiting room amongst the injured, me with highly thinned blood in my alcohol system dripping from my face. Rico and Robert were there, along with Clint and Steve, and as I’m sitting there waiting, Rico comes up to me.
“Hey, you have to go to the bathroom.”
It was an odd thing to say for sure. “No, I’m fine.” I reply.
With urgency, “You have to go to the bathroom.”
I still didn’t get it. “I went before we left.”
“Would you just go to the bathroom!”
“Fine!” I got up and went, and wouldn’t you know it—as if I hadn’t enough to drink that day, but lo and behold, there were two beers in the bathroom. As we were waiting, one of them thought it to be a great time for a beer run. They were refreshing. Later, I told the doctor that my friend Rico is premed and wouldn’t it be quite the learning experience if he could participate in the stitching process. He still has the utensils. Neat huh?

Well, there you have it. Whether you wanted to know or not, I’ve preserved forever the source of the little details that makes me unique. Sorry to bore you with all of this, but at least now you can identify my body if need be. Of course, I didn’t bother to mention all of the emotional scars I carry around, but really, who wants to hear about that, right?

Not me!

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