By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: Emotional pain now leaves physical scars on the body. Describe what you look like.
I look at my reflection in the bathroom mirror and wince, as much from the cut above my eye that stings as from the way it looks. A few dots of blood appear, like beads of red glue trying to solder the minor gash back together. I reach past the toilet for some toilet paper and come back to the mirror.
As I hold the toilet paper to the cut, I wince again. I’m glad I managed to deflect the words this time. I didn’t know we would have a fight today, but we began talking about our plans for Friday night and next thing I know we’re arguing. The sarcastic digs fly back and forth, and then our hidden hurts and indignancies follow.
I can see them heading toward me, and I put up a hand to protect my face. They sting my hand, but I know those stings. They won’t do any permanent damage. He stops talking, and the words stop flying. I bring my hand back down, and then he begins again. The words come—I see them and put up my hand again but must not get it up fast enough. Next thing I know, one of his caustic comments nicks me above the eye.
His face changes, crumpling into disbelief and then concern, but I hold up a hand. No. Don’t come toward me. Don’t follow me. I come into the bathroom.
I press the toilet paper a little harder to make it clot and decide on impulse to take a hot shower. I want to wash away the argument, wash away the sadness, wash away the heartache. We took vows, but fulfilling those vows has turned into a much bigger challenge than I could have imagined.
As I turn on the water and the temperature starts to get warmer, I undress. My fingers brush over the scar that runs across the left-hand side of my chest, and the memory of how I got that scar makes me smile wryly. If I can survive getting that scar, I can survive today’s minor altercation.
The wound that created the scar has healed; now the dark-colored twine made of skin remains as the only reminder of the first boy who broke my heart.
Just like today’s fight turned into a fight before I could even predict it would, in the same way I fell in love before knowing what love meant. That boy took my hand, put his lips to my ear, and whispered that he loved me. He stole a kiss from my lips. Then he stole another. I gave him the third and the fourth, and then I took my heart and handed it to him for safekeeping.
I didn’t know that he would trip. That circumstances would make him reach out to steady himself and cause him to drop my heart in the process. That he would run and leave me gathering the millions of shards of tenderness, the yolk of my first love running in the river of my tears.
I gathered the shards of my heart and tried to put it together again, my breath hitching and my vision obscured by the rivulets of pain leaking from my eyes. It took a while to reassemble and re-place the organ, then longer to jump start it. By the time it began beating again, years had passed and the scar had appeared.
My badge of honor. If I could survive that, I could survive anything. Even a petty disagreement.
I finish my shower and towel off. Even though the scar no longer hurts when I touch it, I still pat my chest with care. It’s the one luxury I allow myself all these years later. It offers me reassurance. It tells me I can do this. I can stand up for myself and find a compromise and fulfill those vows.
I go into the bedroom, and he stands there looking sheepish. Holding flowers. Telling me he’s sorry. And sauntering toward me with that look on his face. The one that tells me we will get through this.