Sometimes it happens in meetings. Or at the nail salon while I’m getting a pedicure. Mostly it happens on the metro.
I’ll be looking down, writing on my notepad or reading a book or magazine, and all of a sudden I’ll feel it.
(Get your minds out of the gutter).
I feel someone looking at me. Staring intently at my forehead. When I look up, they usually have the good grace to look away, only to be caught again a few seconds later. It’s like they’re trying to figure something out, but aren’t quite sure….
This morning, it happened at the dentist’s office (yes, again I was at the dentist’s office where I received the wonderful news that I have to get a gum graft for my receding gumline. Oh joy).
Only, since my dentist has the bedside manner of Frankenstein, instead of politely looking away, he just pointed and came right out and asked, “Did something happen to you there?”
I don’t even need to look to see where he’s pointing.
He’s pointing at my scar on my forehead. Who can blame him? It’s certainly one of the most, um, distinguishing features on my face.
I actually have two scars on my forehead. The first runs right along my hairline. It’s very white and deep like a chalky crevice right before my curls start up.
That one was acquired when I was very young, I think around 8 years old, but honestly, I couldn’t say for sure. My nomadic gypsy childhood coupled with my mother’s propensity to lying makes my personal historical timeline a jumble of real and imagined memories. (Did that really happen or is that something mom just used to tell people to entertain them/garner sympathy/get something out of them?)
Regardless, I think I remember what happened. I think it was winter. I think we were living in Arkansas or maybe it was Missouri. I think my mom was out with whatever boyfriend she had at the time, perhaps getting or cutting down a live Christmas tree. (This is how all my childhood memories work. Everything is just out of reach.)
I do know that I was doing — I was performing (what we called) pinwheels on the railing of a below-ground storm cellar. The railing was above ground (obviously) and I had hooked my leg over it, threaded my arms under it and clasped my ankle. Then I twirled myself over again and again, kicking my free leg out behind me to build up some really good velocity. I was a school yard, monkey bars, pinwheel expert and I was showing off for some other kids.
I don’t remember how many times I got over the bar or if I even made it over that first time, but at some point, my head hit the concrete base attaching the railing to the storm cellar. I was, to say the least, quite woozy but incredibly calm. Until the other kids started pointing out that I was bleeding. And I looked down in the snow and saw blood.
I have other vague memories – a terribly young babysitter wrapping my head in a quilt and waiting for some adults to get back and take us to the hospital (remember, there were no cell phones back then.)
I don’t know how many stitches I had, but I do remember the rather rakish bandage headband I was rocking when I got home later that day, where I proceeded to jump up and down on the couch (this was not what the doctor had ordered) singing, “Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed. One fell off and broke his head. Mamma called the doctor and the doctor said: No more monkeys jumping on the bed.” (Repeat at least 9 more times or until you get yelled at).
My more recent head decoration occurred not at the hands of a male stripper (as you might rightly imagine if you read this blog regularly), but while on vacation in New Orleans with friends.
We were staying at the W in the French Quarter, a lovely hotel with gorgeous bathrooms with very large glass showers covered in beautiful dark gray slate. Slate, let me tell you, is a very, very unforgiving surface.
I slipped. It’s as simple and unexplainable and befuddling as that. One minute I was upright, doing normal bathroom beautification things, and then I was on my hands and knees holding my head.
Every time I think of the wet thud sound my head made against the slate, I get a metallic taste in my mouth. For several weeks afterward, I would jerk awake whenever I had that falling feeling you get when you fall asleep.
Initially, I had the same peaceful woozy feeling as the first time. And once again, I saw the blood, this time against wet black slate instead of stark white snow. Hmmm, not just a bump on the head and two ibuprofen then?
We made a frantic trip to the Tulane University emergency room, (that was an interesting car ride during which I tried to reassure and joke around with an understandably distraught XFE and our nervous hotel-supplied driver.)
The emergency room was surprisingly not busy at 7 am on a weekend morning. I would have expected there to be a lot of drunk, injured people so early in the morning, particularly in New Orleans, but no. Just us. Which provided ample opportunity for every person on duty to stop by and see the girl with the gnarly gash on her head. The reaction was always the same. I would remove the washcloth from my head, and there would be an “OHHHH!” It was fun the first few times, but the novelty eventually wore off.
I think I got seven or eight stitches this time. Despite XFE’s reservations, I waived my right to wait around a couple of hours for a plastic surgeon and opted for the on-duty doctor to stitch me up. I kept up the merry banter, trying to put everyone at ease and convince them all that I would be just fine. I was, after all, old hat at head injuries by this point.
I did not get a jaunty headband this time. I also did not jump on any beds. But XFE did take me on a fairly substantial shopping spree to make me feel better, complete with a splitting headache, a massive goose-egg and huge black stitches. The shopgirls were very kind, if horrified. It was a precursor of things to come.
The stitches stayed in for about a week, and you couldn’t really cover them since the injury was up near my hairline (again – only diagonal this time instead of horizontal – in fact the two scars almost touch). Bandages wouldn’t adhere. So there I was, with stitches just exposed. Made for some interesting times at work and on the metro. I felt pretty much like a monster.
Two months after the incident, we were visiting XFE’s family for Christmas. His mother tried to be reassuring, saying that the scar was hardly noticeable. His father, to my eternal mirth, shouted out, “What do you mean? It’s huge! It’s right there on her forehead.”
A year-and-a-half later, my scar is fairly faint, but I wouldn’t say it’s unnoticeable. The emergency room doctor this time did a much better job than the first time. There’s definitely less of an indent. Plus, I’m a quick healer, a skill that came in very handy when I was young.
I think when most people see my scar they think it’s a shadow from my hair or perhaps even a makeup line. Some sort of trick of the eye. I bet they wonder why they hadn’t noticed it before.
Except for my dentist, who’s been seeing me every three-to-four months for the past five years. He didn’t mistake it for anything other than what it is – a scar. Something with a story. A story he wanted to hear.
Maybe I should point out the other, older one and ask him if he knows what a pinwheel is.