tremble clef

Friday, March 24, 2006

Peter Murphy, "Cuts You Up" (1989)

Recently my sister and I were sitting around talking, and the conversation drifted to the topic of traumatic childhood injuries. It's not a competition, but if it were, she would definitely win for severity, since she broke her arm when we were kids. That was in fact how we got onto the topic: we were reminiscing about our Three Rich Cousins, whom we don't really see anymore, and I was joking that it was just as well, given how one of them was directly responsible for the horror.

"That's right," she said. "We were all playing in our room, and jumping up and down on the bed. And [K., the boy cousin] landed on my arm." She paused. "Sat right on it. I can still hear the sickening cracking sound."

"We were sword-fighting," I supplemented. Helpfully, yet totally irrelevantly. "We had these two plastic martial arts swords. With sheaths and everything. One red, one green." My sister eyed me, perhaps entertaining for a brief moment a suspicion that I remembered so well because I had rerun the event in my mind a few too many gleeful times. But she just said, "That's specific." It was. I don't know why I can recall that so precisely, but I can still picture those damned swords. It's like I'm the rain man of childhood injuries.

If the competition was not over severity, however, but frequency, I would have her beat. While I don't have a broken arm to my name, I did have several major bloody incidents. One time we were both playing badminton (shut up) with the kids in the neighborhood -- this was the same group we went rollerskating with, but the tale of the Xanadu gang is another hilarious story for another time -- and one of them threw a racket at me. The action wasn't clearly aggressive, but the way she did toss it, makes me think that there was at least some malice and bottled-up resentment involved. I'm not sure why the thrower would have had any animosity towards loveable me; maybe I kicked her ass in a game or something. Yes, I can talk tough because I beat girls at badminton. But the racket went up into the air, like a paper plane, such that it came down in an almost graceful arc. "Graceful" until the edge of the racket caught my forehead, just above the eye, that is. After that: neither the racket nor I was so graceful. There was blood spewing everywhere, and I can remember my sister grabbing my hand and running with me, all the while imploring me to keep my head up, back up to our apartment. In my mind, she was more hysterical than I was; I had some sort of unnatural calmness about it all. Maybe I was just thinking about the pretty shuttlecocks.

I must have been eight or nine. Later, when I was closer to fourteen or fifteen, I was playing squash in school, and my opponent smacked me in the face with his backhand swing. Oi, referee, I believe that's a foul. More blood spewing. Excellent. Clearly, I didn't have much luck with racket sports. Eventually I noticed the pattern, wised up, and switched to ping pong. Those paddles don't draw blood, unless, well, you get a bit too zealous with the spanking.

Despite these bloody run-ins, I have grown up to be a person with very little body awareness. Sure, I'm conscious of the fact that I've gotten fat, or when my back aches. But sometimes I find cuts and bruises on my body, and I haven't the foggiest idea how they came to be. A few days ago I finally noticed that I have a little cut on one of my toes -- not on the top, even, but on the side -- and I have no clue how it happened. I don't think I'm self-mutilating (though I understand those for whom the act is a way of feeling), nor do I have an abusive boyfriend who's taking a razor to my digits in frustration while I sleep. It's not even as if the cut hurts that much. I just wouldn't mind being a bit more mindful of when my body gets pierced, rent, or ripped. But perhaps my childhood traumas have gotten me to the point when I'll only notice blood when it's gushing out of a gaping head wound. And even then, nowadays I'll probably be like, "Huh. Interesting. Wondered how that happened."


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