tales of a girl in the city

novembre 28, 2005


Of course there is the point in any new relationship where you see a mark on his chin, a white line across one of his fingers, a queer, circle of pale on his shoulderblade. What happened there? you ask. And out comes the memory. A race downhill on bikes that ended up with skinned knees and 12 stitches. A game of Star Wars on his uncle's lawn that included sticks instead of lightsabers. An angry classmate and a newly sharpened pencil.... The scars are the title page of a story. They're a book report: My Life Then.

I never get tired of telling or hearing these stories. I've got: one of the aforementioned angry classmate/sharp pencil scars on my right hand. There's also a small diagonal mark in between my eyebrows from a game of department-store tag that ended with a crash and a metal clothes wrack. And I've got a deep gash on the bottom of my chin from when I tried to break international speed records with a four-wheeled plastic horse on a gravel driveway. There are others, too, that would tell you: chicken-pox, bad at leg-shaving, grew up on a farm.

There's a certain intimacy that comes when you read the writing life has left. It's a way to get into someone's childhood: were they reckless? Mischievous? Did they have a mother who guarded--who did everything short of shin guards to bed? Was their life filled with brothers and cousins and trying to keep up with the bigger boys? How much did it hurt? What's their first memory of pain? Did they learn about crying that day? Or was that the day they learned to keep it all in--the day someone was watching who told them tears were for girls?

And of course there's intimacy too because these marks can be seen only when you're close enough to see them. If you're talking about scars, you're wearing little but skin. And most of them are hidden, tucked away on elbows and backs or places you have to love to notice. For example, you'd never see the one on my forehead unless you're coming in for, or from, a kiss. You see the one underneath my chin if we're being lazy in bed; your head is on my stomach and you look up and say it: What happened there?

Thinking of all this makes me smile. And that makes the chicken-pock corner of my mouth stretch (you mistook that particular scar for a dimple). I think: This means we're getting closer. That we're coming in to something.

I smile because the wounds and the stories are old, but the meeting--the telling--feels new every time.