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By @Nicole Nelson


I have a scar that aches every time something good happens. It is oppressive yet invisible. It is the shape of arguments, it is tinted with aggressive tones, and silence fills its place. It sits almost halfway between my neck and my stomach, spread out across my back in a jagged map of skin. Sometimes I wish other people could see it, but it is only felt, hearts ache in sympathy with scars that mirror my own. 

It was formed slowly; it had started small. I would trip and no one would rush to help me, a small thing that only ever meant I was growing older. Then I would stay up long enough to hear them fighting, inflicting their own unseen scars on each other and everyone that could hear them. It got bigger when they didn’t even bother to hide their arguments. It grew especially large when she left, everyone around me kept picking at the wound, ripping it open again. And I understand that his scars must have hurt a lot, because he wouldn’t let me forget mine.  

“Doesn’t it hurt? Aren’t you angry?” He would spit vitriol at me, he couldn’t grasp that he was the one still angry and that I only wanted to move on.  

It aches when I see people that are content. Despite not being angry anymore I am still upset that I couldn’t enjoy car rides, or that I could never expect dinner to go well. I suppose that I went through the grieving process before I had even lost something. Taking out every stage of grief on anyone that could deal with my self-pitying nature.

It is soothed when I am reminded that I still possess everything, even if it’s not like the families in the movies, even if it’s fragmented beyond repair. I am aware that I have somehow maintained far more than some people have ever had, but I am still aware of the persistent pain that shoots in patterns around my heart. 

I can never differentiate between arguments; they all follow an easily learned pattern. I can never recall what it was about, just that it was the same as all the others. Sometimes I forget what the argument was about, what turned the quiet conversation into a screaming match. I became aware that it had nothing to do with what was said and had everything to do with the fact that they were unhappy with each other. 

When people ask me about scars that are embedded in the skin I am lighthearted. It is often a childish story in which I learned a lesson that all people learn at some point. I learned not to run in the house when I tripped and split my forehead open, I learned to be cautious around heat when I burned my arm and left a thumbprint size scar that vaguely resembles a bruise. I don’t know what I learned from the one that sits beneath my skin. Maybe I’ll know once it stops hurting, I’ll learn some invaluable lesson once it heals and I can see without white spots coating my vision.

It’s impossible to ignore the spike of pain that branches down my back when I’m reminded of its origin. When the angry voices echo down the halls it is almost like the wound is new, ripped raw, and drowsily dripping. Even hours after the voices stop and all tones are sympathetic I cannot move on.

“What’s wrong?” It is a question that often follows me on such days. It’s often accompanied by eyes unburdened and unscathed. I don’t know how to tell them that an old wound hurts, I wouldn’t be able to explain why something that was a small disagreement to most was a full-scale fight to me.  

I can forget about the marks on my body when I’m alone, there is no one to clash with, and there is no reason to engage in any behavior that may invite a cut or bruise. It is far less painful to be alone but I can’t help wanting to sit, completely content, amongst those who could be my friends. There are benefits to having time to sort through which thoughts are mine and which are born of paranoia, and crying injustice. It is on my own that I am able to realize that the mark across my back doesn’t hurt as much as it once did and that one day it might not hurt at all. 

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