I love that scene in ‘Jaws’ where the three guys sit on the boat and compare their scars. You can learn a little, I think, by hearing about people’s scars and how they came to have them.
Let me tell you about three of my own scars – in chronological order - and how I got them.
Eye: I have a 7mm scar just to the left of my left eye. I was fly fishing with my brother in a boat on the Garavogue River, one May evening around 1978. We used to cast dry flies pretty sweetly, my brothers and I, in those days. The trick was to sit on the still river among the bobbing 'spent mayflies' and wait for the surface to be broken by a trout sucking one down. Then you had to quickly drop your fly right on that spot and hope that the trout would take yours too. If he did, you would then ‘strike’ the hook into his mouth and hopefully play him into the boat.
It was getting late in the evening and we were thinking of heading home when my brother spotted a nice disturbance in the water out in front. He stood up and back-casted the length of line which he already had spun off the reel. Unfortunately the huge black spent mayfly ,which he was fishing with, snagged me less than half an inch from my left eye. “Don’t Strike,” I shouted to him but he had already started the forward motion of his cast, effectively striking the hook into me instead of the fish.
The hook was embedded and wasn’t coming out. We boated down the river and all the people on the bank asked us if we had caught anything. I kept my hand over my eye to hide the bushy alien impaled there and lied that we hadn’t. We pulled the boat up onto the far shore and struggled up the two fields to the hospital in our waders.
It is easy to remove a hook. You push the barb through and snip it off and then the shaft just slips out. I explained this to the doctor but either he didn’t want to hear it or (as he said) he was intent on returning my lovely Spent Mayfly to me intact. He took a scalpel and, slowly and painstakingly, he cut it out. It was more dark-red than black when he was done but I got it back plus a couple of stitches into the bargain.
Wrist: I have a small but deep scar on the back of my right wrist and various smaller scars all around that wrist. This was 1981, I think. I got a call one Sunday morning to go with my friend (who reads this stuff – Hey ‘S’) to Rosses Point to push a caravan up to a place where it could be hooked to a car and towed away. I got on the back of the caravan with his uncle and we both pushed. Sadly - for me mostly - we pushed on the caravan window. Not smart, I now know. The glass smashed and both of our arms fell through, my right and his left. He was older and wiser then me, I guess, because he left his arm in through the broken pane and took his own sweet time easing it back out. I didn’t. I instinctively pulled back and, in the process, impaled my right wrist on a long sharp shard of window-glass that was left sticking down.
Such was the extent of this little impalement that I could not remove my wrist from the glass on my own. Somebody had to take my wrist and pull it off the glass. I got some smaller cuts on the underside of my wrist from that manoeuvre.
We wrapped me up and took me to the hospital. When I was unwrapped the back side of my wrist had swollen up alarmingly like an angry black blister. The attending-person asked whether I could move my wrist. I did, up and down once, and the ‘blister’ erupted, spraying globs of dark blood on everyone in the vicinity.
Thigh: On my left thigh, I have a large and amazingly deep ‘dimple’ in the muscle. I got this while skiing in New Hampshire with my cousin, circa 1989. We drove up from Boston and I hadn’t been skiing for quite a few years. My cousin and his friend were regular and good skiers and I felt I had to keep up with them, as a matter of pride. High up the mountain, I skied over a little edge, flew a bit and fell, landing on my left thigh. Unfortunately I found what was possibly the only sizeable rock on the whole piste and I found it hard. This hurt like absolute buggery and I lay there in the snow wondering what to do next. I was on my own, the cousin-and-friend were probably already in the bar at the bottom.
I has ‘Salopettes’ on, so I couldn’t easily inspect the damage but the leg was swelling and tightening alarmingly and I wanted to get down the mountain as quick as possible. I had a pewter hip flask full of Jack Daniels (as you do) so I drank it all down then I skied tentatively back to base.
This happened very close to Christmas and we soon travelled on to Boulder, Colorado to spend the holiday with some other relatives who lived there. A number of these relatives were doctors. Most memorable about this scar is the level of indifference paid to it by these doctor friends/family of mine. My leg, at this stage was an utterly atrocious sight – not cut, nothing broken, but whatever bleeding had occurred on my thigh seemed to have run down under the skin and pool in my foot which was black and horrible – as was the rest of the leg.
“It’ll be fine,” the docs all shrugged as they inspected it, “Don’t worry.”
I didn’t, and it was, so I guess they were right. Twenty years later, it’s still an impressively deep scar though.
I have others – don’t we all? But that’s three for you to be going along with.
One other thing worth mentioning about these scars is that they all happened quite a long time ago (although it only feels like last year). The scars are all faded now and not at all prominent. If you were looking at me, you would hardly see them
It’s the memories that still itch sometimes.
If you have a scar story, and want to leave it in the comments – or, indeed, do a post on your own blog, I’ll pick my own favourite and post you a book of my shelf, just for fun. I’ll give you a choice of three… God knows what they’ll be.
Thanks for reading.