When I was 14 I had surgery to correct an inguinal hernia; a swollen area of skin above my groin and next to my right hip. Like most things, I let it lie, assuming that because there wasn’t any pain it would eventually correct itself. A month passed before I finally revealed the issue to my father, whose alarmed reaction did nothing to reinforce my mental mantra that everything was “fine.”
When they finally cut me open, it was worse than expected. It took two iron mesh plugs to mend my torn muscle and hold my intestines in place, and when I woke I could hardly stand or walk. That first week was misery, made tolerable thanks to the 2004 Olympics and double doses of Vicodin. After that first week I felt some of my strength beginning to return, inspiring within me a false sense of physical confidence that certainly didn’t help my healing.
But weeks passed, the Olympics ended and the red line on my stomach became a pale one where no hair would grow. I joked to my friends on how I had metal in me, inviting the girls to feel for themselves though they were hardly the ones I wanted doing so. The mesh plugs used in such surgeries are designed to fuse with the skin and muscle, in essence becoming part of ones body and thus minimizing the notion of such a foreign object being within. After a while, I forgot about them.
But like all old wounds, turn just the right way and they’ll remind you of their existence, whether that pain be sharp or ghost-like, whispering the moment of their creation. Despite the years I can still feel them from time to time. And of course, the scar is still there; a visual reminder of my utter mortality not unlike those wounds rendered invisible, yet nonetheless just as present.
I often find myself writing about the blessing and curse of having detailed memory, such as I do. I’ve read that memories are rather fickle things, that those our brain choose to keep are the ones we most often send electrical impulses through by thinking of them, thus forestalling their evanescent nature. In that way, those with sharp or even eidetic memory find a surplus of blessings and curses: moments we long to forget and others we wish to relive.
It’s a beautiful mixed bag: a snowy morning in a zoo, alone with nothing but stillness broken by the howling of wolves; the pure energy in the opening song of your favorite band, suspending you in that moment as if the lyrics were written for you; the intent of calling a loved one, only to have them die before you found the time to do so; the sudden, crushing realization of solitude within an airplane flying thousands of miles away from home; it’s laying in the grass with fireworks above your head on the fourth of July as “Stairway to Heaven” finishes the same time as the finale; it’s an army of tumbleweeds rolling across the freeway as you do 70, until you finally hit the big one in a burst of laughter and dust; it’s falling for someone you find can’t love you back, just when you thought you’d nearly made it.
Whether I intend to or not, I keep my curses, even the ones that leave scars. They juxtapose the blessings quite nicely I find, contrasting rather than canceling them.
The first week is always the hardest. After that it’s all scar tissue. But every now and then, with just the right movement, dream, or thought, they say hello and remind you that the past is just as prevalent as the present.