DECEMBER FIFTH, I THOUGHT THIS.
I wished for just a moment today, a guilty speck of a second, that the bruises would come back.
A person with two black eyes can rest, and not wonder so urgently when the hurting will stop. I am impatient with my face now. When I wake up, my sleep-smooshed nose dances dangerously close to a throb and my patchwork forehead feels the poke of an invisible fork, rhythmless and teasing. There, then gone, maybe for the day, maybe just until I open my mouth to say good morning to my beloved people.
I don’t want to look the way I feel when I wake up, but I know that some mornings, I do.
When the bruises showed, every morning also showed a new and slightly improved version of my face when I risked a look in the mirror. My reflection never horrified me, but I may have become stuck staring, or more likely, caught staring. The patterns and their associated sensations were something that I would have documented, had I been able. I wasn’t, so I rested and waited patiently to be all better. I wish I could have put together a plot of those face-patterns with a word-map of how each had arrived and how a finger pressed here or there changed the colors under my skin. The pairing would have made a fine thing to read and see, now. The terror thus removed, my face would have been a project. A dynamic work of art. Living evidence of evolution and healing.
Now, I see just same-colored skin with two thin lines where the outer stitches used to be, and I feel hard knots under my forehead and eyebrow where inner stitches used to be. My nose looks like my nose. Nothing shows, and I move through the world at almost the same pace as the people around me, and those people don’t look at me with disguised double-takes. Acquaintances who know still linger when they look, well-meaning but curious. I tell them I am fine, just learning to maybe be happy with Bs this semester, easing the discomfort with a smile and a joke about school and nothing more personal.
Still, sometimes I desperately want to lay still after the walk from the car to the building on campus where I must read small print and hear loud voices saying important things very close to my head. The way I walk, sometimes a little carefully or a little hurriedly to get where I need to go to find a quieter place, is the only thing that shows. now. The reading hurts, the loudness hurts, and the long walk is too long. I have laid aside the fear, chosen to forget the human who caused this and give my whole self to human forgiveness and health, but I get angry at the physical pain.
My body betrays me when I count on it to move when I say go and understand when I say think.
Complaining also hurts, so I don’t do it. Much.
Gaining those bruises and living to see them fade has made every day a gift. When my small person is bouncy and I am exhausted, gratitude for her good health outweighs my urge to dial her spirit down to a more manageable level. She has her own invisible bruises, and she sings them away, sometimes for both of us. She can’t possibly know that and does not need to know. She never complains, but she marks that painful night as a reference point for the beginning of this new life.
In this new life, her mommy takes extra naps and does not jump on the trampoline yet. We live in a new house with new people who fascinate her. She would follow them all around, watching and talking and inviting them to do this or that all day long if I didn’t see that they are too kind to tell her to let them finish homework or the latest episode of a favorite show in peace.I actively suppress worry that her joy at being here might wear on the quiet inhabitants of our new house, but so far, no one has complained about us, and I let her bounce to some degree until it’s bedtime or my face hurts from shared laughter or quiet solitary concern for our place in the peaceful mesh of the established routines here.
She is of great concern to the dog, but he is not the boss of things. So is the cat, but I have no idea how to make a Squirrel not be a Squirrel. Squirrel has at least learned that my no means no concerning the Christmas tree and the kitchen counters and how to come when I call her out of the attic. That’s progress.
We progress. Every day, I learn something about my physical body. I am not as delicate as Gram believed me to be, after all.
I accept the frustration and anger at my body for its small betrayals. The morning fork that pokes my forehead can be quieted with meditation, and the nose throb only happens when I forget that I have a nose that would benefit from a force field that spans from chin to cheekbones.
I wrote this last week, to try to make peace with my face. Everything that has anything to do with pain centers on the middle of my face. Today, not the fifth of December, I had an unfortunate run-in with a blood-spattered bottle of body wash, and my day went to pieces along with my heart. Fortunately, I had help in putting the shards into order well enough to see today as another gift, and I can sleep knowing that sometimes, nightmares end with a better kind of reality than the sweetest dreams ever dared allow.