I have scars. And 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 of them are on my face. They never irk me or cause dismay, like a tattoo might if it never matched the tattoo in my mind's eye. They're simply around, a collection that I couldn't help but accumulate, friends I couldn't help but meet, mistakes I couldn't help but make, lessons that I couldn't help but learn.
Here are their stories.
5. He sits to the left side of my eye, about an inch long, following the outer curve of my eye from bottom to top. I sometimes think I can still see where the stitches were but it's probably a projection of my memory. He would be the only bad-ass scar (simply because he's the most obviously displayed on my face) if it wasn't for how we met, a report that is most decidedly not bad-ass since being bad-ass involves convincing everyone that you will always be invincible. I wish I could tell you his story but I don't know it, really, it's just a sort of fun house memory, warped with smoke and a weekend back and drinking to make things stop changing and a pill and a rude hospital bed awakening and a time that people said I almost died but I never believed them. It was the first and only time I did not control myself. It cost me about as much as a house.
4. He's right next door, hidden beneath my left eyebrow. He's about the width of a nickel, making my eyebrow point weirdly and sparsely. When I lived in Washington D.C. between junior and senior year of college with my fiancé it was hot and we would buy Slurpees every night and sit on the stoop in whatever clothes we felt like and never tire of talking to each other. Mine was cherry. He slurped Mountain Dew. We never said no to each other, because that's just what that sort of love felt like, and so we never said no to anyone else either, and so we didn't say no to a houseguest who was apartment hopping or his rather eccentric sometimes boyfriend. On a night when the sometimes boyfriend drank too much I decided he needed to go, a notion that he violently resisted. Since I was a boy who pokes and destroys, and a college boy who liked to get into fights with a lover looking on, and the one who always handled everything, I made him leave. And I got a scar.
3. The next scar is between my eyes but you can hardly see it. He's a crease, really, on the bridge of my enormous nose. The story is much longer than this will give credit for, and by now others tell it better, but it is mine. A great friend from school, a man who I would always admire, head-butted me in the face for kissing his girlfriend. This man had a well-known propensity for head-butting people, and so I asked him if he was would do it to me. He said no, and, like an asshole, I kissed her. I bled all over my bathroom, and woke up having crusted half of my pillow and one side of my bed with blood, feeling very wronged but having been put soundly in my place to hear anyone tell it. A few days later, another great giant of a friend set my nose while I bit down on a belt. Then, since he had accidentally pushed it too far, he wrenched it back in the other direction and set it again. Now it is just a crease.
2. I find the next difficult to describe. He's not a scar that I like to look at. He's small, on the right side of my top lip, and he doesn't seem to have a shape as much as a few dots along a line that pull on my skin and sometimes keep one side of my mouth from smiling fully. He's frozen a bit of my smile in time, smashed into my face by a steering wheel the moment that my brother died, a penance among many.
1. She's the only she, a crater on the surface of the big full moon that is my forehead. If #5 were Orion's belt, you could follow him to her, a little Sirius from Canis Major. She's the silliest but oldest, filled in with love and lots of overlooking. See, having no self control does not mix well with chicken pox for an 8 or 9 year old. My mother dutifully applied calamine lotion to the little red dots, cooing over me when I was good with my hands behind my back, and taping the tips of my fingers when she thought I was cheating. It was the first and only one that I picked. Mothers are always right.
It's funny how our lives are written everywhere — sometimes initials carved on branches, sometimes 140 characters at a time — when all the time, whether we know it or not, we're the paper.