Sunday, May 26, 2013

Breaking Skin

I’ve been breaking skin.  Since last week at work, when I slashed open my forearm, scraping it midway between elbow and wrist, against the chipped edge of the kitchen shelf. I was reaching for something.  I can’t remember what because the pain seared up my spine with such speed that everything in me gasped and I left the kitchen empty handed, mesmerized by my injury. The skin had folded back on itself and there was a smooth white layer of untouched flesh. I watched, troubled and intrigued, as the swollen island leisurely beaded with blood.

That was the first.

A day later, at home, I was opening a can of olives, the green Trader Joe’s can with the pop-tab-pull that always makes me think of sardines. While I’ve never actually opened a can of sardines those lids always seem safer than the wrinkled-ragged edge a can-opener leaves flappingly attached, a malicious and menacing magnet. Maybe it was the illusion of safety that caught me unsuspecting.  The sweat of my surprise flew up my body to my brain as frantically as green olives flooded the floor.

The olive episode involved only one Hello Kitty Band-Aid and the comfort of seeing red seep through Hello Kitty’s fair face. The slash on my forearm required two floral Cynthia Rowley Band-Aids, a generous daub of Neosporin and exceptionally careful placement.  Band-Aids are measurable, they offer precise evidence of damage done, and you can push on the pain periodically and chart the progress of your recovery.

The third. Smacking a bottle of Paul Mitchell against my palm, to coax the mockingly thick thickening conditioner, I was left with a half moon hack in my hand, a woeful foreboding, and a bruise on my foot where the unkind bottle landed.

I actually prefer bruises, even though they may ache more than a clean cut.  They communicate clearly, like a mood ring, and entail no additional attention. Bruises are merely colorful creatures that remind you to slow down and eventually move along leaving you unmarred. Breaking skin is a whole other animal.

The rest. Not warranting their own number, three scraped knuckles opening a pack of batteries, a scratch on the side of my face from my own car door, a ripped cuticle reaching into the glove compartment, a gash above my knee from yesterday’s hike, just a fallen branch that reached out and bit me. More blood, nothing all that dramatic, no tears. All of these, the numbered and not, just areas of flesh that, if accidently brushed against, might bring a minor flash of surprise.

So this morning, before I shower, I pull off all my Band-Aids. I feel the prickles as the adhesive takes some hair.  As I examine my wounds, I am pleased by the improvements. I call out to David because he is the best spectator. My forearm still looks like an island, but more like the Hawaiian Islands, raised and scabbed and healing.  The scratch on my face is barely there and the half moon has healthily hardened. I show him my knee and remember standing at the peak of Mount Islip less than twenty-four hours ago. I say to David, as I do every day after we’ve hiked, “Kerry would be blown away if he knew I was hiking, he would be crazy proud.”

I did not intend to inspect this wound as well.

The sting of hot water on broken skin is entirely bearable. 
The sting of brokenness, immeasurable, unseen, is less so.

Mount Islip, 8521'

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