by Bridie Wilkinson
The scar runs like a half circle, from above my collarbone to just past my armpit. It’s muddled, faded now – like when you wipe a condensed window and end up leaving a smear. If I squint, it becomes a sloping, handwritten ‘C’ – the beginning of a word ending over my shoulders, elsewhere. Ends with you, probably. It’s as much yours as mine.
My mum sees it as yours too – a slur spat onto her daughter’s body, something she keeps hearing even though I’m no longer listening. She doesn’t like to look at it. When she does, she says it looks like a mistake. Like my skin is erroring. She forgets it’s there, remembering only when I’m wearing something with a relaxed neckline, one that lazily gapes open if I lean down to greet the dog, or the strap of my bag catches off my shoulder and pulls down fabric to expose the first hint of a blot. She stares, of course, always for too long, her mouth slightly open in a silent ‘oh’, and then blushes when I realign myself, bunch the shirt back up and push past her.
She’s stopped buying me turtleneck jumpers now. Stopped knitting scarfs. Stopped slipping bio oil into my bag and sending packages of cocoa butter to my flat, stopped pretending that if we hid it, if we could make it fade, maybe you would too.
“It’s a part of my body that I’d barely recognised, but now I was obsessed with. The tentative fission of unclaimed skin.”
I don’t mind it. Really, I don’t. At the beginning, when the bandage was off and you were gone, I wanted to show everyone I met. I was infatuated with the spectacle that my skin had suddenly created. I felt it made me better. More interesting. More exciting.
It was harsher then. Rougher. I’d spend ages deciding what colour described it best, the wine purples that bled into cherry bruises, colours that I had never seen on myself before. I’d take long showers and braid my hair in front of the mirror, observing the wonky passage that now curved across me, just grazing past the borders of my breast. It’s a part of my body that I’d barely recognised, but now I was obsessed with. The tentative fission of unclaimed skin.
I started to idly tap its ridges when I was thinking. Slipping my fingers under my collar, tap-tap-tap as I decided on what coffee to buy, which train to get, if I should pick up the phone. I still do it, even now its unevenness has settled. I can’t think clearly if I’m not playing my chest like a metronome. I’m not sure if I’m following my heartbeat, or something else.
Sometimes, I want to tell people. I wake up, loudly, and wear a vest with spaghetti straps or a bardot top with highlighter on my clavicles or a dress with the deepest v-neck I can find. I invite them in. And they do ask, of course they do. I tell it well. I’m a fantastic storyteller when I want to be. I can pretend that it was the result of months of build-up. I can plant seeds of tension in memories that never happened, distort the ones that did and pare them down so they fit perfectly into my plotline. I can convince the listener that I am whoever I want them to believe me to be. See? I have the scars to prove it.
I’m the only one who gets to look at it completely, though. In the early morning light, standing alone in my bedroom. I raise my arms, slowly, and twist, watching the wide dark expanse of it stretch over me until it ends, abruptly, at the part that I have to strain the most to see.
If only it were whole. A complete circle. It might make it easier.
Co-founder of Dear Damsels, happy that she has been able to put ‘clavicle’ into a piece of writing.