Scarred Up
by Caitlin Sullivan
 
 

Everywhere on my body are scars, I know them all but sometimes they surprise me. They've changed, faded, grown longer, more integrated. Some were given to me, some taken from me, some I gave myself and some were torn without my permission. I have "warrior stripes" on both arms. I draw three lines across the broadest part and watch the blood drip slowly down. They are high and clean, pulling everything I feel at the moment right to them—outside, away from the inside where I'm crazy—out and down and away. They stand together, three. I like the uneven number. I like the finality of the third stroke.

There's one across my forehead, where I fell onto a coffee table as a child. I think. Maybe. There's the two high up on my inner thigh, drawn slowly with a large knife by someone I was half in love with and half in contest with, and whose bravery I admired. I didn't know you could cut with a knife like that, but she did it, and I knew instantly this would be no small scar. Hardly anyone notices it, oddly enough. Maybe they're looking elsewhere in that moment. But I'd see a scar that close to the mouth of me.

Across my chest is a long, slow gash, the idea came from a movie where a man's wife had been murdered. His grief was so thick you could see a small measure of relief on his face when he drew the knife across his chest. He lifted his head back and opened his mouth but made no sound. I was fascinated by the blood coming left to right across his chest like a small wave breaking. I did exactly the same when I lost my wife, betrayed her so badly that it seemed the only thing to release the guilt even a little would be to take myself out altogether. But that would have been the last worst thing to do to her. So I stayed, and did feel some pressure ease as I cut a swath that ran like a small wildfire across the dry weeds of my chest. I was so dry, wrung out, no feeling left, until that night. My chest burning fire, some feeling did come back then.

Some are silly—I was testing a blade and made a small mark that had the tenacity to stay. There is no story there, though I've made them up. I was just testing the blade.

On my thigh I drew a pentagram, the summer my life was saved by a witch. She had one cut into her flesh, deep, re-carved regularly. I knew I couldn't stomach that but in honor I carried the star on my thigh; it stayed until another summer came and went.

There is only one scar from my mother, and it hides most of the time. Sometimes it pops out in complete bas relief, prompting people to ask if I've always had it. I wish I had more, I think that's why it is so expressive. It's my only evidence, evidence I used to pray for—my proof. I knew she was going to take a swing at me so I took off my glasses because they always got broken. I was too slow as usual—god she was fast—and she caught the corner of them and they drove into my eyebrow, following the shape, slicing through the hairs. You can't see it at all, until I get upset about something, or even talk about her, and there it is, plain as day. Of course I don't want it to appear now. Or rather need it to.

My eyebrows are going grey now anyway, and swim at irregular angles, like my father's.

Mostly I love these scars, marks that make my ordinary body stand out just a bit. So what, they say. It's not that I'm not enough, it's that I'm something else entirely. All I ever set out to be.

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