Saturday, June 24, 2006


There's a rhyme about scars in Swedish, minnet i skinnet, "memory in your skin". And for some scars, the skin remembers long after you've forgotten what cut you.

Every time I shave, I look at two scars on my chin. I know how I got one of them -- stomach infection, diarrhoea, got up too fast from the porcelain throne, passed out from the blood pressure drop, fell like a log, landed on my chin and left eyebrow. But the other one? No idea. It isn't recent. I've never been drunk or stoned, so that's not it. Probably a childhood scar -- my mother may remember.

My daughter's nose sports a vertical millimeter-wide silvery scar stripe between the right nostril and the tip. She'll keep it all her life, maybe obsess about it in her teens, though I hope not. I'll be able to tell her about her first few months in daycare, still not very steady on her feet, tripping over the edge of the sandbox and doing a face plant.

Most of my scars are childhood ones. Halfway between the joints on my left thumb: a cut from when we were getting juniper to make bows for archery. The inside of my left wrist: a puncture wound from crawling through a sloe bush. I spent all evening crying and worrying at the wound with a pin, trying to find part of the thorn that I imagined had lodged between the tendons. My knees, oh, my poor knees: that's what you get for riding a bike fast and inexpertly on gravel tracks far into the summer evenings. And the left side of my forehead: do not run head first through a drapery that's partly drawn across a doorway, because you won't be able to gauge exactly where the door post is.

Then there's the intentional scarification of recent years. The 28 punctures from blood donation on the inside of my left arm. And the not entirely successful attempt to remove moles with laser: before getting fried they were protruding, firm and dark; now they're protruding, soft and fish-belly pale.

Strange to think how uninformative this use-wear on my body is. As a bog body, all I'd be able to tell future archaeologists would be that I had lived in prosperous and peaceful times and that I could afford dentistry. It's like all stories: nobody wants to listen to narratives without conflict and hardship.

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