Monday, November 22, 2010

UNDER MY OWN SKIN – Story of My Life

There are the two faint blue-black spots—one on the inside of my right forearm; the other, on my right palm just below the junction with my index finger. They reveal the exuberance of youth as much as its vulnerability. An idle child's game of flip-the-pencil and slam-it-between-the-hands. The hope, the dare, was that the pencil's rotation would cooperate. A kind of Russian roulette for the gun-less—and witless. And why two marks? Fool me once…you know how it goes.

   My full weight dropped onto the tail end of his skate blade, 
   driving the cold metal through my breezers and about an inch 
   deep into the soft flesh.

My scars speak of more consequential exploits. My left buttock bears the emblem of my initiation to ice hockey. I'd clumsily executed my first body check. I felt so powerful, so superior, standing over my victim as he lay face down on the ice. As I turned to find my next conquest, my own skates brought me back down to earth—or, I should say, ice.

My full weight dropped onto the tail end of his skate blade, driving the cold metal through my breezers and about an inch deep into the soft flesh. That scar recorded, for all time, the exact shape of a cross-section of that kid's skate blade and the round tube it was welded to.

Other scars bear witness to even more painful lessons learned. The one in the soft arch of my right foot recalls my running, carefree and barefoot, through long grass and landing squarely on one of those solid cast iron rakes, its rusty three-inch tines penetrating to the bone. Tetanus shots are no fun either.

The one starting on my lower lip and running down my chin is a celebration of my surviving a serious car crash—a full frontal, 50-mile-an-hour collision with a tree during my college days. My parents had always warned me against hitchhiking.

Nowadays the stories my skin tells are kinder and gentler. Over the years, my veins have seemed to rise out of the protective furrows they once occupied in my flesh. Sitting now on top, they swell up like so many mole tunnels, as if the blood will meet less resistance there. Through the ever-thinner, more translucent veil that covers them, they look so vulnerable, getting bigger and bluer by the day.

PharaohHound via WikiMedia Commons
Time's been pretty good to my face. Sure, parts of it have yielded to the insistent pull of gravity, but, thank goodness, not so much to that of stress. I notice it mostly in that second pair of eyelids that have formed just above my original ones, threatening to envelop them, and a few pleats of extra skin running down my neck.

I'm glad I don't have too many other wrinkles. (My dad used to say about someone with lots of wrinkles, "He has a face like a map.") Maybe I should travel more.

What kind of stories do your skin tell?


Pat Samples said...

Jeff, I love your "ode" to your scars. When I teach my class called Writing My Own Permission Slip, I have participants put their pen "in the hands of a scar" on their body and have that scar write a letter to them telling the lessons learned about risk and adventure, injury and healing, loss and recovery. It's always a very revealing exercise. I once had my "stretch marks" on my belly write to me of lessons about the stretching needed to make room for a child in my life after having planned not to have any.

Your mention of our faces being maps prompts me to pass along a quote from Lucy Rose Fischer that's in her new "adult storybook" called I'm New at Being Old: "Someday, with luck, my friends and I will be very old women with road-map faces. People will read our faces and know where we're going."

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Pat -- Thanks for the comment! I like your exercise of having the scars do the talking. Also love the quote, especially with the twist of the wrinkles telling not of where one's been, but where one's going. Keep up the good work and please come back now and then!!

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