Thoughts on scars

(I drafted this before the appendicitis, and it was funnier then. But I’m posting it anyway.)

When I was at this stage of recovery from the first leg surgery, I was still wearing a pressure stocking most of the time, so it didn’t occur to me to examine the scars in any meaningful way. This time, I’m paying more attention to how they are fading, and I’m intrigued to notice that all three are comprised of a reddish-brown center-line, flanked by two whitish scar-tissue streaks. Eventually, all three will be entirely whitish scar-tissue, but not yet.

This is intriguing to me because a million and a half years ago, when I was in college, I played a LARP character who had a scar on her face. Because I had no money, I created this scar in the cheapest possible way – a line of dark red lipliner pencil flanked by two lines of white lipliner pencil, smudged carefully. Lipliner pencils were 99 cents apiece at the local drugstore, you see – which was within walking distance, which also was important, because I also didn’t have a car. It was for a college LARP; authenticity was not the foremost consideration on my mind.

But it turns out I got it right.

That LARP character was based on one of the female protagonists for my first novel, even then in its embryonic stages. In my twenties I wrote more of it and its sequel, and someday I’m going to go back to it and figure out what I can salvage. The plot is as trite as you would expect a first effort to be – but everyone who’s read it says with this tone of surprise that they can’t believe how much they care about the characters… Anyway, the aforementioned female protagonist, a dancer and swordswoman, suffers a severe and lifechanging injury as part of the book one plot. Book two deals in part with her slow, frustrating, incomplete recovery.

I wrote most of this between 1999 and 2009. In 2014, I broke my leg very badly, leading to a slow, frustrating, and not yet complete recovery.

Turns out I got that right too. I can tell you now about physical therapy, about relapses, about the terror of the word “permanent” when said by a medical professional, about the utter insanity of twelve weeks of bedrest, about rage. I can tell you about choosing grocery stores based on their size – how many steps to get everything on the list? – and about planning a day’s or a week’s activities based how much standing is involved. (“I’d better take a cab tonight, even though my destination isn’t far, because I have to go shopping tomorrow.”) I can tell you about having to ask people to slow down when they’re walking with you. And then having to ask them again, because they’re excited about what they’re telling you and they’re used to your old quick pace and they’ve forgotten. And then having to grit your teeth and say it a third goddamned time. I can tell you about the heart-pounding panic of slipping on ice or uneven ground and landing on the bad leg – it’s not even the pain, the pain settles into an ache pretty quickly, but the adrenaline stays with you. I can tell you about the crazy joy of recovering one lost skill at a time. It’s not that you’re  enjoying scrubbing a bathtub exactly, but the ability to crouch without pain is something to be celebrated. I can tell you about the bargains you make with yourself and the universe – it’s okay if I can’t have this thing back, as long as I can manage this other thing someday… The fictional character in question was a dancer before her injury, a skill lost to her permanently; me, I still don’t know if bellydancing is something I’ll get back. It’s okay if I don’t, since it was not central to my conception of myself as it was for her. But the parallel is…creepily congruent.

I got it right. I wrote it right, before I’d experienced it, relying only on secondary sources, and verified it through my own senses after the fact. Twice. With essentially the same character.

This tells me three things:

  1. 1) My instincts are quite good.
  2. 2) My research-fu is even better.
  3. 3) I should be really seriously careful what hardships I inflict upon this character or any future iterations of her. As they seem to rebound upon me, and all.

Fortunately for me (and for her), I’m a fan of happy endings, and I’ve always been working toward one for her. She winds up with the love of her life and they live happily, despite the chaos of the world outside and the need to deal with what it throws at them. She figures out her personal life at a later age than most protagonists of such stories – in her mid-forties, in fact, so I’ve stolen a march on her there. Her happily-ever-after is comprised of work she enjoys, the use of skills she once didn’t know she possessed, pleasant travel to interesting places, good friends, and no children. Mine too.

Maybe I’ll refrain from inflicting that second war on her. Just, you know. Just in case.

(The appendicitis? Links to absolutely nothing I’ve ever written for her. That one’s really mine, apparently.)

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