I am rolling down my aunt’s driveway in Colorado on a razor scooter. I am gathering speed and looking at the pines and mountains in the horizon and giggling with my cousin. We are neck and neck, racing to get to the front door, and I speed up and then I fall. My right arm hits the concrete first and the rest of my body lands on top of it. I experience a jolt of pain, and then my arm feels heavy and numb. I hold my arm close to me, as if nursing an infant. The adults don’t believe my arm is broken at first. Eventually, they realize something is wrong, it’s not just a bruise, and I go to the hospital. It’s a clean fracture. The cast is off in three or four weeks.
I’m on the playground and talking to a girl on my rec soccer team. I chide her for making a mistake in last weekend’s game. I chuckle but she doesn’t. I walk away and she trips me. My arm, cast freshly-removed, is first to hit the ground, and the tender radius of my right arm splits in a way that leaves me screaming and bawling, a pain infinitely more acute than last time. I am rushed from emergency room to orthopedist. He takes an x-ray and tells me that the bone is screwed up, a mangled stick. It will be deformed if I don’t realign it, he says. He injects a few syringes of painkiller into my arm and tries to manually set my arm. He wriggles my bone with his bare hands and I scream louder than I ever have before. I feel his hands scratching my bone’s nerves, raking at them. The doctor’s surname is something-stein, but my pain twists it into Frankenstein. My parents look on with pity at their child in tears. The orthopedist takes an X-ray to see if he was successful. He wasn’t. He tries again and I wail. He injects another syringe but it does nothing to dull the pain. He takes an X-ray. Failure again. In the end, I need to get surgery. A different doctor, Dr. Rao, pumps me with anesthesia, slices open my forearm, and puts metal through my radius.
Now, every time people see my scar, about 8 inches long, they ask me if I set off metal detectors at airports. I don’t.
It is after swim practice and I’m in middle school. I’m wearing a jammer with orange stripes down the side. My teammates shove each other in the locker rooms. Some boys shout obscenities and throw soap at each other. I am smaller and quieter than most. I started swimming after gaining weight. I was sedentary for about six months after I got surgery on my right arm and wasn’t able to play at recess. Instead, I ate a lot of McDonald’s. But swimming helped me shed most of my chub. I am easier to push now, too.
Iggy, a friend, pushes me in the showers and I fall, my jaw hitting the tiled floor. My front teeth stab through my bottom lip. Blood flows into the drain along with shower water and suds. At the emergency room, the wait is long, but I am able to entertain myself in between tears when I realize that there is an actual hole in my lip. I could close my mouth and blow air through it. A doctor sews me up like a ragdoll. Now, the scar is only visible when I pull my lower lip over my bottom teeth like a tarp.
Stupidly, I am jumping over a bush with a friend. We are twelve and there is no real reason to do it, but, I repeat, we are twelve. We crouch, then jump, and another one of my friends, out of nowhere, pushes me. I fall hard on my elbow and blood gushes, rushing down my arm, staining my shirt. The shirt was from my dad’s college fraternity and I believe it read “100 Years of Toughness.” The scar now sits on my left elbow like a small bug. Sometimes, it looks like a crumpled little brain. It is not attractive.
I’m at Six Flags and I’m ready to graduate middle school. Acne has begun to descend upon my prepubescent forehead. I am popping a pimple. And then, fast-forward a few years through cruel adolescence and I have stupidly scratched my temples and cheeks to the point of some shallow scars.
I stare down at my limbs. If I lived three lifetimes, would scars cover my body? Are scars a childhood memento or a memento mori?