She’s Losing Them

The acne scars, that is. I wonder what it’s like? How does she feel?

All scars fade in time. Even though we remember those moments of shame, small indignities or huge embarrassments as if branded into our hides, they’re mere echoes, not even close to the intensity of the first cut of them.

I have a scar on my finger that reminds me of trauma that appears to me in soundless, colorless flashes, disjointed and distorted, like a silent horror movie of muted screams against grainy screens of partially lit faces in terror: eyes widened, brows furrowed, and mouths in mid-howl.

It’s my index finger, the tip of which was chopped off when I was maybe 3. Memories fade. My mother wasn’t there that day, a rarity in itself. My sleeping father was in charge. In reality, my 8 and 6-year-old sisters were.

We lived in Brooklyn in a fourth-floor apartment with a heavy door that raced shut in the sheer massiveness of its weight, except for the last crack of the opening.  The door slammed shut with a boom after a second’s hesitation as if building up the ferocity to strike that door jamb with a definitive, angry commandment of closing. Boom! The hallway rang with its crashing steel on steel.

My sisters and I were playing in the hall, the door closing behind us, and I, ever one to tempt the gods to see how far their vision traveled, stuck my index finger in the slowly disappearing crack in the door. A few times actually. I think my game was to see how many times I could stick my finger in the diminishing space before the door slammed shut.

I lost. The door won and took the tip of my tiny finger off as a prize. My father, awakened by my sisters’ screaming, scooped me up and ran me down the stairs to the nearby doctor’s office.

I remember his powder-blue, terry cloth bathrobe, the belt swinging untied as he scrambled down the stairs, exposing his white undershirt and light blue boxers. I remember the heady height, scooped up atop his 6 foot 3 frame. I also remember looking down at the blood drops, one hitting every other stair or so, and the one splatter marring my mother’s mustard brown sandals dangling off my feet, six or more sizes too big for my little foot. I had been wearing them when the door hit.

I also remember the tip of my left index finger, lopped over to the side, hanging by a thread of skin. I don’t remember pain. I do recall the doctor flipping that finger tip right side up,  where it belonged with the rest of the finger, and bandaging it in place. And I do remember the doctor commenting on my pretty shoes, which I was quick to respond to, lest there be any misconceptions or false representations, that they were my mother’s.

When on occasion I notice the scar on the tip of my finger, I recall its story with detached interest and curiosity. Like childhood itself, the story becomes flat, distant and removed. Even the recalled emotions, like cells under a microscope, we adults observe them with the curiosity of a scientist.

All scars heal, even the ones that affect us all our lives. The scabs turn into protective walls that swallow up the wound as if it never was.

Do you still feel the pain?

My oldest daughter talks about the world, hers and everyone else’s, what she’s seen, heard, and whatever fascinates her at the moment. She’s easy to talk to, and we share similar visions about people, art, accountability, and human nature.

She’s a sensitive woman, but she appears so collected, unaffected, and strong. Quiet and reserved, many might say about her if they only knew her for a short time. So many times I’ve witnessed her courage in situations that would have crushed me–the pressure of a soccer goal keeper and scalding slights of social isolation in high school. In middle school, she developed a staph infection that caused scabs to form on her face. I agonized for her unwarranted shame.

I think of her plight with acne. Did she believe herself ugly because of the raging outbreaks her neck and jawline would scream out to anyone within sight?

(Jordyn using Unblemish after 5 and 1/2 weeks)

She recites her story–I was awkward, wasn’t popular–as if she were cast in High School Musical, allotted her clique. But does she feel it still? Or is it like a scar on a finger, faded and forgotten, even as it’s embedded in the movie reels of memory as clearly as it is inscribed in the disfigured flesh?

What’s it like to have acne? Your face is your calling card. Others judge you by what they see–if they see. Most don’t. They look at you with their own stories, select what’s important to them to “see” in you. But you, yourself, see your image from the inside, real and imagined.

What will she envision when the scars disappear altogether?



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