REFLECTION: Scars healed, but not gone

Cameron Gorman

Cameron Gorman

Cameron Gorman

When I look down at my left hand, I see the usual to someone with a critical eye. My fingers are a little fat, and most rings don’t fit over them. I have a light dusting of hair on the first segment of my digits, the closest to my knuckles, and I remember reading somewhere, as a child, that this is gross. I guess I’ve always been a bit self-conscious of my hands, whether I am aware of it or not. I don’t get many manicures, and I’d never nominate myself for the status of hand model, but at least I don’t have to wear gloves 24/7.

There is one part of my hands that I don’t find myself worrying over, though. From the webbing between my thumb and forefinger of my left hand runs the ghost of a scar. It’s faded and whitish, and under certain skin conditions and lamp lights, you can’t even tell it’s there. Other times, though — if I scratch my hand, for example — it seems to raise itself from the even skin of the rest of my hand, reminding me of its presence.

This scar is the only thing really left from the time in my life when I cut my own skin. The other scratches and scabs have healed over the years, sun bleached and tanned away. My skin cells have turned over, again and again, until they erased any evidence of what happened here. On the softer inside of my wrist, there is only a faint mark of reddish line. The even spots on the back of my left hand where I dug pencils into my skin have blended themselves into memory. On my legs, mosquito bites and blackberry bush tears leave no memory of their presence. But still, there it is. The scar remains. Glancing from one hand to the other, it creates a strange sort of asymmetry in my extremities — where there is supposed to be sameness is a quirk.

When I was forming the scar, I had a suspicion it would never heal. I picked and re-picked at the scabs there, swam with my open cuts at meets for my high school and felt the pain of chlorine under my skin. I suspect I was trying to sustain a call for help.

But by the time that help came, in some form or another, I couldn’t stand the marks. I was told they would heal, and most of them did. But I knew I could never be totally rid of that one scar. As it healed, it twisted and braided the skin around it, tightening and toughening it. I remember looking it up, and surfacing with possible answers. Keloid scar? Hypertrophic scar? The months passed, and it stuck around. I remember thinking about it, wondering: Will I have this scar when I get married? When I die? It had become a marker of self-shame, of my own ruination of what could have been virgin skin. A little reminder of my seemingly endless capacity to self-destruct.

Of course, it has faded. It’s little more than stitching now. But over the years, as it’s begun to recess into the skin around it, I’ve felt something strange. When I look at my hand, I like my scar. I don’t want it to go.

No, it’s not because I’m proud of what I did. If I could go back in time and talk to the girl who decided broadcasting a plea for help on her hand was the right idea, I would tell her the truth: It wasn’t the answer. There were so many other ways to ask for a rescue. No, instead, the scar has become part of me. Sure, in the cliche way: It’s a reminder of growth. All skin is.

What I mean, really, is that this scar is a reminder of who I am, good and bad. If this scar ever fade completely, the space between my thumb and my fingers will feel alien. I am imperfect and too emotional. My hands are imperfect and my fingers are puffy. If you look at the space between them, there is a jagged white line. Will I have this scar when I die? I hope so.

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