My third tattoo: When life gives you lemons…

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I stopped halfway through my run to do plyometrics. I jumped on and off a waist-high concrete ledge over and over, feeling the burn in my legs and trying to ignore how much they would hurt in the coming days.

One more, I told myself as my legs weakened. One more I told myself again, as my legs wobbled. One m-

Then I felt pain. I didn’t see myself fall, but I picked myself up off the ground and decided it was a good place to stop. I had done one “one more” too many. I looked down to tie my shoes for the run back to the apartment and noticed the large gash on my shin, pouring blood and feeling about as painful as it sounds.

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I took a few steps on it to see if it was broken. It wasn’t. I was lucky. It was a lot of blood though. I figured I would probably need it sewn up so walked thirty minutes across town to an urgent care clinic and checked myself in. The clerks at the desk gasped when they saw the blood leaking from my shoe onto the floor and led me immediately into a private room in urgent care, then laid me on an exam table and put a box under my leg to keep it elevated.

After another hour the wound had been cleaned out, I had an x-ray done – nothing was broken – and the painkiller they used to sew my leg up was wearing off. “You had eleven stitches. You’re lucky it’s not broken,” the most beautiful woman in the world told me.

Over the next month, I saw the woman more and more and realized that she was average looking and it was my blood loss which clouded my judgement and gave her an angelic glow.

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I wore a plastic boot over my foot on the way out. There was so much blood in my shoe that it had leaked out the top, stained the sole, and the doctors poured some out into a trashbag the way you would pour water from a cup. A maid came in to throw the trash out and gagged several times when she saw my shoe on the floor and the gauze used to clean the wound.

“Get mederma and use this every day. Do not skip days or the scar won’t get better,” the doctor told me.

“That will be a nice scar,” a nurse at the clinic I work at chimed in.

“That’s not going away dude,” a blunt EMT informed me.

Everyone had bad news. Everyone had advice on what to do to make the scar less noticeable, as if it were some curse.

The scar is ugly. There’s no way around that. Do I want to spend the next year using creams to lessen the scar, then the rest of my life trying to hide it? No. Do I want to pretend it never happened? No. The scar was even smiling. It was a sign.

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Once it was healed enough to take the dressing off, kids stared at me everywhere I walked. Adults grimaced and then tried not to look. Everyone saw what they thought was pain–there was none–and assumed I was miserable–I wasn’t.

The kids I translated for looked uncomfortable around the stitches and jagged scar, so I grabbed some paint and glamorized it for them.

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They liked the change. So did I. They didn’t stare or get scared anymore. I didn’t feel like I had anything to hide.

I decided to improve the scar. The scar isn’t part of who I am, but it’s a sign of how I live: fast, reckless, and clumsy. If the scar is there I’m going to have it on my terms. If people want to stare at the scar, they’ll see something happy instead of wincing at the jagged crescent.

So I took matters into my own hands.

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The tattoo will fade, just as the scar will, and both will eventually be lightened lines hidden behind hair, but whenever it’s visible, it be a story instead of a tragedy. I own it.

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