I am four. I am under a sheet feeling woozy. Off in the distance, I hear my mother insisting that someone find a plastic sturgeon. I know what a sturgeon is from my book about sea creatures and I wonder how a plastic fish will fix the problem with my forehead. Nonetheless, she got what she wanted and you can’t see where playground rock impaled my baby skin.
I am eight. I have fallen off my bike so many times this summer already, but our driveway is a perfect slope and he dares me to zoom down it with no hands. This is the first time I learn you can skin your shoulder.
I am ten. I have scars I don’t remember getting. My favorite is one shaped like an upside down question mark on my right wrist. When people ask how I got cut, sometimes I say, “glass jumps.” I don’t know what it means, but they nod as if they understand.
I am eleven and we moved away from the house with the perfectly sloped driveway and I miss it so much it hurts. I hate the way the houses on our new street crowd together. But the street is smooth and I skate faster and faster, forgetting that my friends don’t talk to me at school anymore and that my dad doesn’t have a job. When the ground meets my knees again, I’m not surprised and I don’t cry until my mom picks the rocks out with tweezers.
I am twelve and I fall frequently. I am thirteen and I fall more. I am fourteen and someone mistakenly lets me onto the cheerleading squad. I fall in practice, I fall up the bleachers after a game. I misstep during our dance performances, not because I forgot the steps, but because I am graceless.
I am sixteen and I trip into the corner of my locker door. It’s the middle of class, I forgot my binder and have gone to retrieve it. By some coincidence we end up in the hall at the same time and he’s not surprised by my bloody lip, in fact he laughs a little. Not in a mean way, in an “I love my klutz” way. Later people whisper that he hit me. I have a tiny scar on my lip for a long time from the metal corner that attacked me. You can’t see it unless you look very closely now, but it is a reminder that people will cut away at what they can’t understand.
I am eighteen and I’m drunk. I am walking up a snowy hill with my friends and I fall for the seventeenth time. They roar with laughter and fall next to me. We laugh until we cry and get too cold. Then they take turns carrying me home and it is the only happy memory I have from that awful winter.
I am twenty-six and I am fat. I know that running has it’s risks, but I take them. I fall on sidewalks and trails. I cut my hands over and over. I’ve never learned to fall right. I manage not to fall during my race.
I am twenty-seven and I am walking with girls from a seminar I desperately want to impress. I am walking next to them chatting away and then I am not. My books spill everywhere and some undergrads snicker. I can feel the heat from dozens of playground falls rise in my face. D make me promise not to wear those boots again when I get home, but we both know it doesn’t matter much.
I am twenty-eight and the sidewalks of my neighborhood are as uneven as they were when I fell on them when I was twenty two. This time I am running and as I fly through the air I catch Lola’s terrified look. She licks my tears away, as I sit picking mulch out of my bloodied knees.
I am thirty and the sidewalk bites me again. This time I fall so hard I make a huge thud and a neighbor opens a window, sticking her head out to see if I’m ok. I’m reminded that you can skin your shoulder and your knee in the same fall. D is upset when I come back, but I insist on finishing my run. We compromise and I run on the treadmill. Surprisingly, I’ve never fallen off a treadmill.
I’m thirty-one and we’re on a rare shopping trip together to buy a dress for me. I’m trying one last dress on and he says he likes it. I like it too and when I go back into the dressing room I look it over admiringly, until I see beyond the dress. On the ride home I’m quiet and he asks what’s wrong. With tears in my eyes I ask if my scars embarrass him and he says no and squeezes my hand.
I am thirty-one and it is yesterday night. I spread thin layers of Mederma on my knees and my shoulder. I know that the scars upon scars on my knees can’t be fixed with Mederma, but I try anyway. I gaze at the tiny triangle that sets off the question mark on my wrist, an emblem of my darkest hour. I toss the Mederma aside and rub neosporin into a cut on my hand I don’t remember receiving.
I am thirty one and it is today and I’m wondering where my grace got off to and I wonder what I’d look like if you could see all my scars.