What’s your favorite scar?

Across the street, there is a local live music venue I have come to haunt, drawn not just by the wonderful sounds but the intense emotions I absorb through every pore. Sometimes the sentiments touch tender places – after all I am single, in my thirties, and carry life’s baggage. On this evening, though, it will surpass anything I could have conjured and I have an overactive imagination.

The singer-songwriter–guitarist begins setting the scene for his next piece by asking, ”Anyone have a favorite scar?”

I am extremely proud of myself for not scrunching down in my seat. Not that I can hide as I am in the front row. From birth defects and the corrective efforts of the medical profession, I am blind and have what can best be described as an asymmetrical face. My body is littered with scars, some not covered by clothing. Simply putting scar and favorite in the same sentence has stopped my thoughts as I hold perfectly still.

Though laughing, nobody in the eight person audience answers. The musician decides to take advantage of the intimate setting. “I’m going to go around the room asking each of you.”

While I am grasping at shreds of composure, my internal-observer suddenly stands at attention, rubbing its hands together. Tonight’s inner torture will apparently be interesting material for analysis.

The singer-songwriter-guitarist asks his prize pupil. “What’s your favorite scar?”

The twenty-three-year-old woman replies, “I only have one in my eyebrow.”

“Amateur,” I think while the performer coaxes, ”From?”

“Childhood accident.”

The interrogation of the audience continues. Everyone has a story about a random or not so random accident. WE never even approach the realm of emergency surgery let alone something planned.

Even my internal-observer is silent, unable to pick one of my scalpel creations, with memories of pain and trauma clinging to it, as favorite. Could that mountain be scaled, merely telling basic facts would kill the mood. If asked, I might choose one earned by actually living, best loved because it was not caused to improve my quality of life. This would cause the same bucket of ice water to be dumped over the laughing group.

The story of one fellow patron grabs my attention, “I have a favorite scar, but the story is disgusting.”

“And?” urges the singer-songwriter-guitarist.

***“Well, nobody told me not to put a band aid on a wet wound. Once everything had dried, it needed to be picked out from the crust.”

Now I remember suture cleanings where hydrogen peroxide was used to soften blood before it was flaked away by cotton swab. I yank my thoughts away from that journey down memory lane.

Then, the internal-observer part of my brain announces, “Just imagine, if you are reacting like this, the female protagonist in the novel you’re writing would also respond intensely to tonight’s events. It would show how she feels about her own scarred body. There is also an essay in this about how society perceives scars differently based on how they are attained.”

“Gee, thanks,” I think. Whirling in my mind are fragments of memory each connected to one of my twenty-six surgeries and the tangible reminders left upon my skin.

Meanwhile, the singer-songwriter-guitarist has questioned everyone in the room. Well, everyone but me. The moment is perfect in its uncertainty, as my mind suddenly empties. Should he call upon me, I know only gibberish will pass my lips.

Then, he begins to speak, telling his own story before picking up his instrument.

Again my internal-observer speaks. “I wonder if that happened because he doesn’t know how to get the attention of a blind woman without using her name?”

Ignoring the latest comment, I lose myself in the writing possibilities, soothed by the creative process.

After the performance, I cluster with some other patrons and the evening’s performers. Through the conversation, I locate the singer-songwriter-guitarist and, looking in his direction, ask, “Hey, can I steal that thing about favorite scars? It inspired a scene in my novel.”

As soon as the words are uttered, my internal-observer is resurrected. “Did you ever think that realizing you were in the audience, while he joked about scars, might upset the man? I know you heard him speaking about depression so intense he could only sit in his underwear watching movies. Are you trying to cause psychological trauma?”

The singer-songwriter-guitarist replies, “Sure.”

My internal-observer applauds, “He understands more than I expected – no backpedaling or apologizing. Unless, of course, you don’t look as scarred as you think you do.”

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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