Archive for August, 2009

The Book of Myself – Early Years – This significant illness or injury scared me:

August 28, 2009

On a spring day in third grade my arm burst open.  I lived in a tough neighborhood but it wasn’t a switchblade that did the damage.  I was collating documents after school with some friends and one of them starting throwing sharp pencils at me.  Some of the points broke the skin.  I put up with it for a while but finally got so mad I starting chasing my tormenter around the tables, with him laughing all the way.  He rushed out a courtyard door—the kind with wood around the edges and mini window panes in the middle—and slammed it behind him.  I pushed the door open with my left hand, aiming for the wood but hitting one of the window panes instead.  My short-sleeved arm went through the broken glass up to my elbow.  I didn’t even realize what had happened.  I yanked it out and ran into the sunlight.  I was kind of dazed by the brightness, and wondered why my friend had stopped running.  He had one hand on his mouth, pointing with the other to my red arm.  Blood was spurting up four inches into the air like an upside down faucet.  I was scared to death and couldn’t move, but I let out a howl from way deep inside.  It went on and on and on.  One of our neighbors heard me screaming, rushed up and scooped me up into his arms and ran to the hospital across the street.  I passed out somewhere along the way.  When I woke up my mom was by my bedside in the emergency room, stroking my hair.  Her eyes were swollen.  I squeezed her hand as tightly as I could. 

A week later Mom took me to our regular doctor to get the stitches out.  He was shocked.  He told her that for a serious injury like mine, the doctors at our community hospital should have put in about seventy stitches instead of twelve.  Mom told him the nurse did it.  He just shook his head, pulling the nylon threads out one at a time while I winced.  “There’s going to be a big scar,” he said.  Mom frowned but I just smiled.  In my neighborhood, scars were badges of courage.  The bigger, the better—and the badder.           

The wound healed into the shape of a carrot, with the green stalk on top at the wrist, and a juicy fat carrot underneath, ending in a point toward my elbow.  When I walked the halls at school, kids yelled out, “Lemme see yo carrot.”  I was so proud.