The first thing I learned to love about myself was my blackness. The second, my hair and the third, my scars. I warmed up to the scars lining the last three fingers of my right hand first. And then, the bubbled scar in-between my thumb and index finger. I learned how after nights of tracing them in a single dorm room as the campus streetlight slid its way into my window. The way the light danced lazily down the length of each scar before starting again was something akin to magic. I pressed down on the bubbled scar used to its softness, the most noticeable and mentioned one of the bunch. I was transfixed on my twin sized bed, the TV’s white noise fading in the background eager not to interrupt our moment. I traced them once more after a drunken night out with my friends and again when I was sober enough to properly count the fading slashes on each side of the scars.
There are two slashes on each side, a total of four on each finger and too many faded or otherwise to count on the scar between my thumb and index finger. They are harder to see now than they once were. A longer scar joins them at my inner wrist and another lingers a little further down my arm. They are the level headed ones, they have been with me the longest, stretched with me as I’ve grown and given tours to the ones that came in later. They all look the same: a curved line with an even number of slashes alongside them contentedly. My scars are the result of stitches. Stitches’ scars from a surgery I was almost too young to remember. However, that’s not the story I often tell.
When children ask, I tell them that they are magic. Or rather, they are the controller of the magic that lives inside of the bent fingers on my right hand. I give them the example of the Genie in Aladdin and tell them that it only works if they truly believe. I don’t do it to deceive them, I do it because it shifts the conversation. Instead of asking why, they freeze for a moment, wonder washing over their eyes as they think of their three wishes. They are amazed at the things, the scars, that once made my stomach turn. They find out the truth only moments later but for that moment, they believe in something they can’t explain and it’s beautiful to watch.
Three more scars would follow some years later. This time, they'd come as a result of another surgery, a medal plate in my hip. First, it was put in, then taken out a year later. The shortest scar sits on my inner right thigh while its sibling lines the outside of my right leg that spans from the base of my hip to about nine inches down. Its cousin presses itself to the back of my knee. These three scars are more noticeable than the ones on my arm and fingers. They are raised, bumpy, ready to start a bar fight at two am just after the bartender makes the last call. They are all leather jackets and whiskey on the rocks, if they were people, they’d be a biker gang chasing the open roads whenever they got the chance. Whereas the others are smooth, charming, keepers of peace, they teach ballroom at youth centers on the weekends and always leave a good tip.
I gave them different stories too. For the insistent woman who stands a little too close for comfort, the one behind my knee was the result of a boating accident, or a hot air balloon incident that’s still too hard to talk about. For the little girl who ran up to tell me my hand was beautiful, my scars are battle scars earned during a duel to the death. I was the princess who saved herself from the fire breathing dragon. I was particularly proud of that one as she bounced away with a huge smile on her face. In life, we all want something to believe in, something to keep us tethered to the earth and ourselves. The children who believed in my “magic” believed me without proof. They believed me despite the fact that it is highly improbable. I wanted to believe me and I’d like to think that a younger me would have. A younger me didn’t know how to love the things that made her different, I only knew how to be embarrassed by the scars that did nothing but prove that I am a fighter, a keeper of a experiences that are all my own.
Now, I know that my scars are special, they may not be magical but they are mine and that makes them something worth cherishing. They tell stories, start conversations and illicit a joy in me that took years and years, 22 to be exact, to cultivate. I needed these stories to get me to the place that I am now, these stories gave me something to believe in, something to hold onto during bad days when all I wanted to do was wake up in a new body free of the scars that reminded me only of how different I was from my peers. I needed them until I no longer felt the urge to slice until I reached bone, cut away anger, disappointment and resentment until my skin was anew. I cut a bit too deep, let myself and now I’m finding my way back to the surface one exaggerated story at a time.
At 24, I find myself still tracing them, apologizing for the years we spent on the opposite sides of self-worth. After all, we’ve been together so long that a few fights and eventual growth along the way were to be expected. I am still making up stories, not because I have to now but because explaining the same old story whenever I am asked is boring. I like to give my scars more credit than that. They are worthy of their own superhero origin stories, their own Avengers action sequence and their own adventure. Last week, they arrived after sailing some harsh seas, a wave that flipped me overboard before I could blink and the week before that I got attacked by a lion who scratched a line down my leg as deep as the scar that sits atop it. There was a knife fight gone awry and a life or death slip in the woods. There were moments for the truth, sometimes I tire of the stories. I know that even on their worst day, my scars are a story worthy of its own celebration.