Stories of things that hurt.
I have a winking affection for belongings that were a pain in the ass to acquire, de-package, assemble or were otherwise unyielding. It just seems fitting that a monstrously stubborn item fighting to make its presence known should end up with me.
It’s also fortunate I don’t have the same patience for abusive people that I do for abusive objects.
There was this huge, brilliant red rug hanging in a store. I decided to pull it down to get a horizontal view of it. Relentless yanking released the heavy carpet — right on my head. A brutal, hard corner of it landed on my eyeball. I saw flashes like when you’re struck in the face with a ball, except this kept going like a strobe.
Throughout the day, even as I wiped away my nonstop tearing, I’d chuckle to myself, “A rug fell in my eye!”
Some months later, at a routine eye exam in an eyeglass shop, I was told to go to an ophthalmologist because my eye pressure test read too high. That’s the test where an apparatus forces an awful puff of air into your eye while the onus is on you not to blink. It sucks. A high reading can mean glaucoma. That really sucks.
After freaking out that I was going blind and realizing how nothing would matter if I lost my sight — career options, a great view, renewing my driver’s license or even choosing a sofa color — I looked online for causes of glaucoma. Since I didn’t fall under the specified demographics, the only category left was “severe trauma to the eyes.” Like a giant rug colliding with your cornea.
It took me weeks to get myself to a real eye doctor, but before that, a semi-conscious bit of me woke up every day believing blindness could be part of my future. When I finally did get around to an ophthalmologist, he found nothing wrong with my eyes.
But that’s neither here nor there. This is about my warped notion that objects that hurt me, belong with me.
The store people had rolled up the rug and jammed it into my car. The rug didn’t manage to blind me, but when I carried it into the house, it put out my back. Then inside, it unrolled too quickly and another hard edge of it caught my shin. The cut bled and left a permanent scar.
This was one aggressive rug, but in the end, I’d like to think I tamed it, laying it flat in the center of the living room.
There are many such objects in my life, and many scars, nicks and fond struggles.
A predictable mishap involved a series of cacti. They had fascinating thorn patterns — some curling, some thick and others fuzzy. I just had to purchase a few. Once I did, I gingerly placed them in a deep carton that fit around them snugly so my foursome would be safe and unshifting for the drive back.
But me, I was not so safe, because naturally, once arrived at their new home, the thorny troublemakers would have their way.
You know the monkey with a fistful of nuts in a jar, neither letting go nor freeing his hand? I was determined not to be that monkey while I navigated the depth of the carton against its snugness around the sharp weaponry of my new plants. So twenty minutes ensued of me trying to outsmart the situation with various long implements in hopes of prying up the planters. But the planters would not budge.
It finally came to me going in with my bare arms. In my impatience gloves didn’t occur to me.
Monkey would neither let go nor free her hands, all the while pulling and yanking. You can imagine the scratched-up, thorn-picking aftermath. This is why in cartoons, a cactus on the screen signals the laughs to come long before the hapless coyote lands on it to don a thorn-covered ass.
The difference is, cartoony victims don’t bleed. My arms assured me I was no cartoon.
I settled my foursome on the kitchen counter close to where I often prepared food. Sucking the blood off my knuckles, I looked admiringly at the spiky bunch, considering them conquered.
It so happens that my favorite foods have resulted in scars on my body too. One Sunday, with six ripe avocados fresh from the farmer’s market, lime, cilantro and the rest, I set out to make a spicy guacamole. My glee for heavy flavoring with lime outmatched my disdain for food preparation. My mouth watered even before I cut the fruit.
No need to make this long: Weeks later, I still had four little holes in my wrist. I’d gotten stabbed with the fork I used to squeeze out the lime.
Did you think it was going to be another cactus mishap, with their thorns sitting so close to my food-preparation area? No, they remained quite immobile, which was good since I’m a bleeder. Incidentally, the guacamole was gloriously tart.
There’s no segue from food that hurt me to music that hurt me. There’s just my on-again, off-again affair with my guitar. If only relationships with people were like relationships with guitars. A guitar doesn’t smother or give you the cold shoulder. It’s always there but doesn’t weigh you down. It lets you wrap around it, and when you strum it, it comes to life. How do I keep what brings me such joy hidden in the closet for long periods? Whenever my guitar and I become re-acquainted, it’s like learning to talk again.
Except my fingers bleed.
At least for the first few days before callouses develop. But during the honeymoon period, I grab my guitar first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to sleep. And the fingers, well, there’s no love without a little bloodshed.
Anything can leave a mark, even happy occasions.
A faint scar on my pinky is marker for the day I spent with my little brother ice-skating in Central Park. He was eight then, and time with this child meant the purest moments of happiness I knew as an adult. The day was magical for many reasons — New York, Central Park, the ice — but relevant to this story is afterwards, when I pulled off one of his skates. The blade went straight for my finger. The vein on my knuckle didn’t quite stop bleeding for two days.
It didn’t bother me that the wound took a long time to heal, because while it remained fresh, so did the day in Central Park. My brother is sixteen now, and every time I notice my pinky, I smile. I don’t see a scar, I see my little brother’s shiny, eight-year-old eyes looking up at me as he held my hand skating around the rink.
Many out-of-ordinary days — mostly on vacation or out in nature — have marked me up. One might argue that I’m clumsy. But I look at a mark on my arm and think, “That’s the day I tried body boarding in Costa Rica.”
When my skin’s marred with some red nick and not so girlie-pretty, I could probably use a bit of zinc to heal faster.
But zinc’s just not as romantic as scar stories.
- Sometimes, there is no moral.
- Always wear gardening gloves when dealing with cactus plants.
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