A pool of blood expanded from my head as I laid flat on the floor of basketball court at 24 Hour Fitness on 42nd St.
“I can see bone” Jon told me.
Tim, as an EMS worker wanted me to remain calm. But he confirmed. “Yeah, you probably shouldn’t look in a mirror.”
Over the last 7 years I’ve come up with all kinds of stories ranging from the classics bar brawl protecting a harassed woman at the bar to fighting off a bear with my bare hands. The truth is not a great story.
The only pride I can take in what happened was that I was killing Tim and Jon in ‘21' before literally diving for a rebound into the brick wall with full brunt force. Tim told me there was no where for the cut to go, so it spread. The bridge of my nose had a deep cut that went across like the bridge of swimming goggles. I got around 10 stitches there while a huge scar next to my eyebrow was born with 19 stitches, some inside and some out, if I remember right.
The first time I looked in the mirror was hard. I knew I wouldn’t look like I did my whole life. It was hard to reconcile. In the pictures above you can tell there is sadness behind my bruised eyes. I remember holding back tears feeling like I would have to now learn to be ok with a scar that would front and center. The attachment to how I looked suddenly became clear. I’m grateful the scar healed well and ended up being partially covered by my eyebrow. But I still am asked, often in a first meeting, what happened. Hence my boredom telling the same story, even if its more exciting than running into a brick wall.
Over the years I’ve forgotten it. It’s become a part of who I am. I’m only reminded when someone asks where the scar came from following the stares centered on my scar. I remember the guy who stitched me up being so proud of the work on my “zig-zag scar.” But then giving me a card for a plastic surgeon. My relationship has changed with it over the years as it’s become more unnoticeable to me and really to others.
But I’ve learned to embrace the fact that today is not yesterday. Tomorrow is a new me. I can’t pretend that things are the same as they were. Change is going to happen. But the scars on my face tell a story and become a part of making me who I am.
About a week and a half ago, I saw a post from Aubrey Marcus, the president and CEO of Austin’s fitness gym Onnit. He got in a brutal car wreck where both cars were totaled and he was lucky to be alive. But didn’t leave unscathed. His face swollen and beaten with stitches on his face and lips.
His injuries were far more extreme than mine, but his realization was similar to mine. I’m not the same today as I was yesterday and that’s ok. We don’t have to try and be who we were or get back to what once was. Right now is ok. Right now is enough. Days after his post, he shared his acceptance of who he is today. He embraced it.
My disappointing basketball scar was not the first injury to my face. While at a theme park in Colorado around the age of 6 or so, I was with my mom and younger brother Jordan. I had to go to the bathroom and there was a brick step up to get to it about 3 levels high. I’m not sure what led to the next moment. But it involved my brother shoving me, making me head dive straight into the corner of one of the bricks.
I remember three things after that. The view of the theme park jumping around as I was in my mom’s arms, as if through the lens of the shaky cam in the movie Cloverfield. Blood pouring down my face as she rushed me to the hospital.
The next thing I remember was the bright light above my head, like a fade to white in a movie, as I laid on a table in a Colorado hospital as they stitched up the top right of my forehead.
The third thing I remember was after the stitches going to the vending machine to get my reward for making it through my first real injury. The only thing they had in the vending machine? Fucking fruit. I walked away from that incident with an apple. How you like them apples? Dammit.
I can feel the scar on my forehead over 30 years later, I can see if if I look closely, but it’s faded and become just who I am.
Scars remind us that we can’t live in the past, but have to embrace what today brings and what tomorrow has for us.