“Scars” by Richard F. Yates

scars
1. Middle Finger, Right Hand: The nail is permanently split in two, and from the tip of the finger to the first joint, and all the way around the finger, there are multiple laceration scars from an accident in 7th grade shop class. I was too short to reach the table router that I was required to use for a part of one of my assignments and, because I couldn’t see very well, I wasn’t able to tell that the piece of wood I was working on wasn’t all the way back against the brace when I started pushing it towards the router bit. The bit grabbed the wood and tossed it out of my grip and, being thrown off balance, my hand slid into the bit and the tip of my middle finger was, essentially, shredded.

2. Knuckle, Index Finger, Right Hand: As a sophomore in high school, I attempted to pick up my skateboard by kicking the tail and popping the board off the ground and into my hand. It was a minor “trick” I’d done hundreds of times, but this particular time, I misjudged my timing and instead of grabbing the skateboard by the axel, I ran my knuckle across a section of fresh grip tape (basically rough sandpaper with a sticky side that you put on the top of skateboards to help keep you from slipping off), and tore a big chunk of the flesh away. (Despite the accident, I continued to skateboard for the next 10 years and, frequently, did the pick-up trick. You might have seen Michael J. Fox do it in Back to the Future. I was young and foolish then, and, to quote They Might Be Giants, I’m old and foolish now.)

3. Wrist, Right Hand: Forgetting that I had loaned my house keys to Mariah’s brother, who was staying with us at the time, I pulled my car up to a window (about 7 or 8 feet off the ground) that opened onto the kitchen of our old house on Florida Street. Standing on the hood of the car, I tried to push the window up enough to get my fingers under the wooden windowsill, but my foot slipped on the hood, and my right hand went through the glass, slashing my wrist directly under my palm and cutting it a few other places around the sides of the wrist. Luckily, I was wearing a thick cotton coat, which stopped the glass from cutting too far into the flesh. After the glass broke, I smashed enough of the rest of the window to dive through it, wrapped my hand in a towel, and then called my grandma to ask her to give me a little ride. It took thirteen stitches to close the wound, and I still have a scar on my wrist, about one inch long and about half an inch wide, that looks almost exactly like I’ve had a metal spike nailed into it.

4. Shin on Right Leg: Against the express wishes of my mother, I was swimming in a pond in our neighbor’s field when I was about 12 or 13 years old, and I caught my leg on a broken bottle on the edge of the pond, which cut a nice gash about four inches long into my shin starting a few inches below my right knee. I ran home and, not wanting mom to find out, washed the cut, then tried to tie the meat back together with a long sock. Somehow, it didn’t get infected, but now I’m left with a 4 inch long white streak on my leg where no hair will grow.

5. Left Knee: Believe it or not, although I was about 5 foot tall and weighed about 110 pounds in 7th and 8th grades, I played football for my junior high school team. (My friends played and I didn’t want to be left out.) As a third-stringer, I saw very little action, but about two games into the season of my 8th grade year, I somehow made the mistake of getting my hands on the football and was almost instantly crushed by a bunch of big heavy kids. I was out for the rest of the game, and when I came practice the next day and told the coach that my left knee really hurt, he scolded me for being a pansy and told me to do some laps. My mom, on the other hand, knew better than to blow it off if I said something hurt (I was a pretty tough kid, always getting beaten up and picked on and rarely complaining about it), and since my knee seemed swollen she took me to the doctors. They said I had a condition called Osgood-Schlatter (which I heard as “slaughter” and thought was pretty cool) in which the tendons under the knee tear away, or something like that, causing a big knot and lots of pain. I had to quit football and basically never did any “real” sports again. To this day, I still have the knot and it still hurts if I have to kneel down, although part of that might have been exacerbated by the decade or so I spent crashing my skateboard and falling from the top of 8 foot high half-pipes…

6. Left Shoulder: This one has faded a bit and is tough to see under all the fur that’s grown in over the last few decades, but there is still a faint half-inch section of discoloration on my left shoulder from a fight the my brother, Dave, and I had when I was about 12 years old. We were wrestling around in the kitchen and at some point he slammed me into the counter below the bar and my shoulder smashed a power outlet, shattering it. We got in trouble for fighting, and I went off to play games on our fancy Apple IIc, “portable” computer system. After playing for a while I realized that my shoulder felt funny, and I reached up and touched it and the shirt was soaked with blood. Apparently, one of the shards of the breaking outlet cover had gouged a nice chunk out of my shoulder before giving up the ghost.

7. Abdomen: When I was four, I was digging for “treasure” in my next door neighbor’s driveway. She didn’t see me (or my friend, a little girl) playing behind her car as she was leaving to go to work, and she backed over us. We both lived, but I received a broken collar bone and a punctured lung for my troubles, and (because this was the 1970s) the doctors at the hospital did something called “exploratory surgery” to see if anything else was damaged. This means that they cut across my entire stomach and opened me up to check and see how things were working in there after the initial trauma, and they also took my appendix out while they were messing around in there. You know, just for fun, I guess. I still, almost 40 years later, have a 7 or 8 inch long scar across my stomach, reaching from the left hand side of my abdomen to just a few inches right of my belly button. In addition, during the procedure they cut through the muscles and tendons to do their exploring, meaning that my stomach is oddly shaped, with a weird divot where the scar line is and inconsistent muscle flexibility across my gut. I am forever asymmetrical! (Just like most of my monsters!)

8. Left Eye Socket: This one is tough to see, but easy to feel. On the lower edge of my left eye socket is a bump up that pushes against the eyeball. Imagine something like a cursive “i” that slopes up to a point then drops down to join the normal shape of the eye socket. I don’t know how the bone spur (if that’s what it is) got there. I may have been born with it, it may have happened during my birth (which was apparently very traumatic—the pictures of my head from the day I was born look like I was kicked in the face by a horse as I was coming out the chute), or it might have happened during some wild event in my pre-memory youth (I was apparently in and out of the hospital several times before I turned 3…) What I do know is that the spur presses on my left eye causing a huge distortion in my vision in that eye, like I have a massive blind spot for most of my vision. When I look at the world with both eyes, I don’t notice any problems at all (in fact my “two eye vision” is excellent), but when I look with just my left eye, everything is weird. The colors are slightly different than what my right eye sees, and it’s as if I’m seeing through a zoetrope. I can see parts of the world, and I can tell they are moving, but my brain is making up large parts and filling in the blanks because it’s not seeing the whole thing at once. Very strange. I guess this part isn’t really a “scar,” but it might be caused by scar tissue? Who knows?

9. Back of Neck: When I have the hair on the back of my neck shaved, you can see a series of weird, red splashes of color. Again, I don’t know if I was just born with this or if it was caused by my traumatic birth, but I’ve had several people mention it to me. I don’t see the back of my own head very often, although I have looked at the red bits in the mirror a few times, particularly in the 80s when I frequently had those shaved head, punk rock, “skateboard” haircuts. (Those days are long gone.)

I’ve got a few more, but that’s enough for now…

—Richard F. Yates

About richardfyates

Compulsive creator of the bizarre and absurd. (Artist, writer, poet, provocateur...)
This entry was posted in biography, digitally modified photos, humor, scars, trauma and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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