Written on the Body
The mole on my breast that started out to the left of my nipple when I was ten, and slowly grew and moved, so that it's a way above, now, and sits just above the line of lace on my bra. It raised itself, it split into three plump sections, but it didn't react badly when as a misguided teenager, I tried to slice it. I wonder if one day my breasts will be so old and pendulous that this one will count as a neck mole.
The serrated pale grey roundel on my right knee's instep, with dark blue incision marks, and one black line to the left that reminds me of how cycling at speed in a circle is a stupid idea if you cycle so fast that your bike goes into skid. It reminds me that I took every bit of skin off my left hand, earning no such scar, and surprises me every time that although I skidded on my left side along the gravel, I had the wit to leap sideways from the bike as I did so, and somehow scar the 'wrong' side of my arm and leg. It also reminds me of how I held grudges against my family for angry years as a child - two days after the accident, we were scheduled to take a series of buses to Lancashire to visit my grandmother. We could have stayed home, but we didn't, and although each time I bent my knee the whole graze opened up again, my mum insisted on travelling on the top deck of each of the buses. No doubt with the grizzling, vengeful fuming eight year old that was me in tow. The scar also reminds me that I swore an oath to that revenge.
There's a shadow of a line on my left shin, that recalls the first holiday I took without my family - a primary school trip, aged ten, to the Isle of Wight. I was slightly surprised that guest house furniture wasn't as strong as ours at home, so when the wardrobe I'd clambered onto in order to hurtle onto my bed, repeatedly, collapsed over me, I was more perplexed than actually hurt.
Beneath my chin is a tiny white smile, a map of my oldest scar, and the only time I ever scaled the summit of the playground climbing frame, only to plummet head first onto the nineteen seventies rock hard playground tarmac. As my gran used to say, 'you're lucky you have a tongue left'.
On my left upper elbow is a small white indentation, a memento of a mosquito bite from Cairo when I was seventeen (one of a hundred and twenty seven on my arms, as a long, itching, scabby night testified). I picked it and picked it, tearing the bloody scales from it daily; its scar was a fair exchange for the hundred and twenty six raging prickling rawnesses that I didn't touch.
In my right palm is embedded a small blue solid, five millimetres below the surface - a solid leaden lump serving as a nonfunctional reminder of a crazy golf pencil sharpened to a blade. Notable mostly for the memory of having to explain to my teacher the reason I'd stabbed a sharp pencil directly into my palm was to see if I could. It dates from nineteen eighty, and over the years it's waxed from black to into blue, and slowly dissipated into my flesh.
There's a scar that isn't visible, on my central nervous system - I was a weird, freakish looking, sickly child ('like Robert Stevenson was', I always used to say, hopefully), and contracted poxes and scarlet fevers right up until my twenties. One month of shingles lacerated the connection in the tree of nerve endings that spreads across my back forever, and there's a spot just at the highest point of my right shoulder blade, where if you scratch it, the nervous reflex perceives the sensation as a touch on my lower arm. It always makes me shiver, so I do it often, for fun.
Both my thumbs, twice a month, dry and peel just alongside the nail, so I tear and gouge out bits of flesh with my teeth till they're bleeding, peeled red wounds. I assumed it signified nervousness, or perhaps a hormonal fluctuation, till once, in my twenties, I glanced at my father's thumbs, and saw he had the exact same hands. It's a spooky heredity that makes you tear at your own flesh. I wonder if people who self-harm or mutilate have a genetic predisposition of which they know nothing? I bite my thumb at you, sir.
My left big toe doesn't appear to be different, but since dislocation in a school sports game (I ran only three times throughout my entire adolescence - because just look what happens when you run) it's become clairvoyant. My toe, strangely sentient, aches dully whenever it's about to rain really heavily for days. Which isn't that much of a meteorological surprise in Britain, where we submits to perennial grey drizzle from January until late April. So, thanks, to my lesbian sports teacher, who yelled at me that I was a useless, sodding lump, and made me go to Geography with a grossly swollen foot dangling (then tried to chat me up when I hit seventeen), you left me with a prince among toes, a psychic toe-route to another dimension. Also, my mum wouldn't pay for a taxi to the hospital, so it marks another spot where I swore, one day, vengeance would be mine. I never quite worked out if other kids called upon the heavens to witness their vow of vengeance owed on an annual basis as I did. Puh. Their loss.
As a pimply, whining adolescent I had the most atrocious acne. I have a scar to the side of my left nostril that looks a little like a nose piercing healed over many years ago. I like these scars. They developed after many many hours of poring over a sweaty mirror at thirteen. They provided much needed relief at school - it's so much easier to be called 'pizza face' than 'lesbian' amongst the ignorant wilds of rural pubescence. If it weren't for the acne, I'd never have discovered the glories of William Blake's verse. And it reminds me of the agonies of a two hour home piercing my sister attempted with a dirty needle on her own nose, on her first night at university. I prefer mine. Mine didn't hurt, and I got to squeeze, as a bonus.
A writer's lump on the second index finger of my right hand. I was proud to develop this at age seven. And a texter's rough patch just above the ball of my right thumb, which I was horrified to develop at age thirty two.
Above my left eye is a prolonged snaking fissure, following the arch of my brow, but just below. It marks an important lesson I learnt, about not gorging amphetamines for any extended period of time, because they lead you into fights with people who are demonstrably tougher than you; it reflects a night in Brixton when I decided to rescue someone from being mugged for five pounds and achieved fruition when a cricle of glass was pounded and ground into my face by a gang of five meaty men. I was partially blinded for a year, which I never found less than fascinating. However, the irregular seam left above my eye bothered me - it stemmed directly from my stupidity and my lack of social agility and nous. I deserve this scar. It is a disfigurement in the oldest sense - a dishonour. A blemish of the character as well as my face. So therefore I always assumed it was the first thing people saw. Over the decade since I won this reminder, I've learnt that most observers can't see it even when pointed out - it's only in my mind that they see the disfigurement, then see me.
Finally, the cicatrices in corkscrew whorls about my nipples recall the times I became embroiled in a world I wasn't ready for, in a vain attempt to mutilate myself in order not to be the same, physically not ever the same, as the person whom she'd rejected. I got mixed up in a world where others maintain ulterior motives for causing pain, ones I was not aware of, and have four small white worm obliques spiralling from my aureoles to remind myself not to trust. And these fissures worked, too - I'm not the person she rejected. Not at all.