By Nancy Walecki, Class of ’20
I have a scar. When I look in the mirror in the right light, it takes the form of a neat, diagonal, pen stroke across the very top of my forehead, from the furrow in my brow to where it disappears into the hair above my temple. But when I only touch it and do not see it, it becomes a mountain range, filled with uneven peaks and valleys and jagged detours of knotted, sturdy flesh. If I tap my fingers lightly, I can feel the bone beneath that I saw once, before the mountain range converged and hid my inner-workings from me again. I remember it contrasted beautifully with the red—alabaster discovered during an excavation for rubies.
I had three scars on my body before, but I always kept them covered. This fourth one though is a force of nature. It’s the big scar. It rests right on my face, the Rocky Mountains meandering their lazy way over gentle skin. I can’t cover it; it’s not going anywhere. The moment my life was sent in another direction, the aftermath of skull hitting marble, will forever be on permanent display.
When you are scarred, it means your body knew it was so weak that it opened itself up for a moment to be filled with Something stronger than just the bone and organs that live inside of it. The human body is full of atoms, and atoms are 99.99999% empty space. If an atom were a football stadium, the nucleus would be an orange in the middle of the field and the electrons would be pinheads in the parking lot—everything else would just be Emptiness. So, it turns out, our bodies are mostly made out of nothing. They are Empty. Scars happen when all the Emptiness can’t take it anymore and it bursts through the seams, desperate for Something to fill it up. Your atoms pry you open for a moment in order to show you that inside your body is just flesh and bone–that beneath your skin is a blank slate waiting to be colored with Something more than hearts and lungs and muscles.
I have four scars. I also believe in Something with a capital “S.” Before I hit my head, I had three hidden scars and a little Something. After I fell, I had four scars and a lot of Something. I am calling it Something now, but to me, it is God. To a boy I loved, it is Allah; to my former teacher, it is Not Up For Discussion Right Now; to the woman who taught me yoga, it is the Universe; to the girl at the bakery with the healing crystal on the counter, it is Karma; but to my best friend from home, who lives perpetually in honesty and openness, always looking to fill herself up with what is true and right, it is Something.
Scars are a moment when you say to yourself, oh I guess I’m not invincible after all. It’s a moment when your body tells you so clearly that it is just flesh and bone, that there’s a huge amount of weakness in just being a person made out of insubstantial atoms. It’s a moment when you are briefly opened and exposed, more than you ever have been, before your body brings its seams together again, tighter and filled with a different stuff than it was before–a stuff that saves you from the limitations of the physical and opens you to the Something that really matters. Scars are going out on that emotional limb and asking someone, Have you ever felt this way too? Scars are standing in the middle of a city and realizing how small you are; they are asking for help when you know you need it; scars are trauma; scars are weakness. Scars are a reminder that maybe we aren’t the end all and be all of everything–that there are forces outside of our control acting upon us.
I have a friend with no scars. At least, none that she shows anyway. She believes that succeeding is living a life free of falls, of weakness, of scars–a life without Something. She asks me why I have not put scar cream on my forehead, and in that question, I know we are different. A life without scars is hollowness, in which your atoms quietly ache in their Emptiness, nothing there to open them up to that stronger Something. There is nothing more inside of you, other than the vacancy you were born with, nothing that can bring your life beyond the Emptiness of the physical to the complexity and richness of the spiritual. If you took out all of the empty space in our bodies and condensed our atoms, the entire human race lumped together would just be the size of a sugar cube. So, only a microscopic portion of one grain of sugar belongs purely to us – the rest of ourselves belongs to nothing, or Something, depending. In their natural state of nothingness, your atoms are not filled with the courage that compels you to tell someone how your day really went, nor the peace that softens stiff upper-lips and untangles your roots long enough to wrap around someone else’s. This life built upon the purely physical relies on the belief that you are that Something: that you are a single actor upon this world and that you are subject to nothing beyond your own control. Since all that space between your atoms is seemingly insignificant, there can be nothing greater in this world except you to fill you up. If it’s all about you, you’re going to make yourself look good, dammit, and scars are pretty ugly.
I love Something. I love It so much that sometimes I don’t mind the scar on my forehead because it is what infused my atoms with Something. My scar makes me feel as though I am made of a stronger stuff than just flesh and bone. My scar is not an imposition on something untainted, but the remnants of that strong and sturdy Something that came into me and gave me the strength to endure the many scars to come. Scars hurt—it’s true. I can still remember waking up with my fourth scar and my entire body absolutely humming with so much feeling. Every nerve was supercharged. I am no longer in pain, but I am still humming. That Something allows me to feel more, love deeper, and rest easier.
I feel so sorry for my friend with no scars. She lives in a world so small that the only occupant is herself. She is looking for Something, but she believes It is found in security and perfection. She will never know how Something floods you when you tell someone else the mistakes you’ve made that keep you up at night, or the peace you feel when you throw up your hands to Something and say, Can you help me out? I think she is afraid because scars hurt. Scars are disorderly and grotesque. Scars are painful, but I can also tell you that Something certainly isn’t.
I have a scar. It runs along the surface of my forehead and then ducks underneath where no one can see it, and winds its way throughout every bit of me. My scar is weakness sewn back together with Something much stronger: a Something that lets me laugh in the face of the anxieties we create for ourselves, a Something that is home no matter where I am, a Something that lets me look in the mirror and see the strength of the Rocky Mountains stand in perfection atop someone very weak, but very much at peace.