Contrary to the maxim, chicks don't dig scars - at least none that I've met. Most women, upon noticing my moderately mangled hands, sigh, squint their eyes, scrunch their noses and appear generally uncomfortable.
My mother shakes her head, as mothers do when forced to recount trauma to their children. Men counter with "better" scars.
But I can't look at the traces of my many gouges, scrapes, slices and slashes without the corners of my mouth turning up. For behind the miscoloured and misshapen patches of skin are memories of those who have become closest to my heart.
Sure, a decade of manual labour leaves its mark. The sheet metal shard through the palm, the framing nail into the leg, the divot in the shin from a rogue claw hammer, for example.
But the good ones, the ones others notice and the ones worth pulling out for a manly scar-off, those come from friendship.
My first such scar, a now faint, ever-shrinking hairless blemish no bigger than my pinkie nail, came when I was 7 or 8. I can recall my friend Caleb, the barbecue lighter and the G.I. Joe. Technically, I dealt this blow to myself, though in my opinion Caleb was equally complicit because, while I held the plastic soldier, he roasted its head with our new-found flame.
We were jolted from the state of awe that a melting army man commands by the sound of the screen door opening, and thrust our hands behind our backs in panic. It took everything in me to stifle a scream when what was left of that scorched soldier fused to my left wrist. We were never busted (though if my parents read this then that's untrue) and I was left with a subtle reminder of fire's awesome power and a lifelong friend.
The scar meted out by Tom is a doozy. It runs from the ball joint of my right thumb down to my wrist. The exact moment the blade separated from my hand Tom and I briefly saw bone, tendons and all kinds of internal circuitry before it disappeared in what seemed like an endless flow of blood.
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For the most part, whenever I run into Tom and he introduces me to whoever he's with, he begins with, "This is Jordan, look what I did to him," then grabs my hand to show it off. Come to think of it, we laugh about the incident every time we catch up, even when there's no one to share it with.
That one was a low point for common sense. We were on the cusp of becoming teenagers and some kind of project had morphed into a what-can-we-destroy session. It resulted in the two of us chopping cardboard like martial artists chop wood blocks, except we were wielding fully extended box cutters instead of open palms.
Needless to say, Tom missed. His eyes still go wide when he describes watching the innards of my hand revealed. We tried to hide what was surely going to, and did, result in serious repercussions. But I was having trouble closing the wound and was growing exceedingly faint and ashen-faced. My father staunched the bleeding, pinched the gash tight and wrapped a solid two feet of electrical tape around my hand. I had another notable scar and another notable friend.
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While the next round of disfigurement came with a new lot of pals (a glance at my hands brings thoughts of Davey and Dustin), recently, there was a lull - until I met a guy known simply as Shimmer.
Last year we were both content to spend a beautiful Saturday moving his mother into a new home. The process was not taxing, as far as moves go, but 200-plus pounds of adjustable bed would prove to reverse our fortune.
Balancing the foot of the bed, walking backward, I eased myself down the off-ramp of the truck and was just a few feet from the brick of the house when Shimmer, mirroring my steps but unable to see his feet walking forward, stepped off the side of the ramp.
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His cry didn't enlighten me to his misstep - the weight of the motorized bed left to my spindly self did. While I successfully shifted my body to avoid being pinned to the wall, my mishap-prone left hand remained.
Fortunately, it was only my pointer and middle fingers that were crushed. The injuries were not so much cuts as tears, which I can only describe as opening the way a flower does in a time-lapse video. Though instead of revealing a beautiful pollen core, there was bone. Shimmer stuck by my side through the hospital adventure, and has remained a fixture ever since.
Having now grown accustomed to this odd ritual of injury turned camaraderie, I am no longer concerned with the inevitable accidents I am sure to encounter. When I receive what will become yet another lasting mark, I need only turn to the person who inflicts it and acknowledge my fortune in finding yet another lifelong friend.
Jordan J. Hay lives in Toronto.
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