The scars you carry

If there was one thing my parents hated about me, it was my tendency to pick at my scabs.

Stop it! They cry suddenly from across the living room, index finger pointed accusingly in my direction.

I freeze, knee up the chair, fingers midway through a peel at a scab on my leg.

You’re going to have so many scars. It’s going to be so ugly!

I grin sheepishly as my mother advances, nostrils flaring, and give one final pull at the dry, hardened skin.

As it turns out, I did have many scars. My aunts, during the dreaded Chinese New Year family gatherings and birthday dinners, loved to remind me of the marks I have.

And yet still, sometimes, it was just immensely satisfying to pick at something I know I’m supposed to leave.

Sometimes, the wounds are so small you forget about the blood that pools. It’s interesting for the first few seconds, then you get bored, and you let it heal.

Other times, it’s a laceration. Torn into your flesh, deep and gaping – blood flowing, tears streaming – and it never seems like it would be complete again.

Or more often still, it’s healing. It’s trying to make you as whole as you once were, but it somehow starts to itch, so you absentmindedly start to pick at the edges again, bit by bit, little by little.

Then you hit blood, and you hastily push the skin back down.

At some point though, you either set your mind to letting it recover, or you simply stop remembering it exists.

So you let it heal.

Scars are like carrying around a constant reminder of what went wrong. Eventually, it heals – although sometimes you can still see the smudges of what once was, but never will be again.

And you let it heal, because for once, just once, you so desperately want to feel some semblance of normalcy again.

It’s never really the same the second time around.

But you let it heal anyway, because you don’t have a choice.

Some day, something small will remind you of the scars you carry. It could be a few days later, or it could be a year later. It could be anything at all: an unexpected reminder of how you got scarred, or the sudden presence of someone else’s newly-acquired scar. So you’ll look down for the first time in a long, long time, and realize with surprise that the scars have faded so much, they don’t look anything at all like what you remembered them to be. Daunting. Harrowing. Tormenting.

Because on hindsight, that’s all that scars will be: a random topic during one of those dreaded Chinese New Year family gatherings. A small blemish, a little discoloration. A gentle reminder of your own strength, and your ability to heal. Any time.

Every time.

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