Mercury reverses her course today, but before she does, my cookies are an utter disaster, and a lamp breaks spectacularly, flinging glass across my living room while I stand on a chair, hanging a lone string of Christmas lights. I swear loudly, and carefully climb down to attend to the damage. My right hand is cut in half a dozen places.
Ten years ago, I cleaned my kitchen while I awaited the arrival of my lover. While washing dishes in our deep porcelain sink, I shattered a drinking glass, cutting the knuckles of my right hand deeply enough that I still have noticeable scars. I wrapped my hand and went to the store to buy bandages, my blood soaking through the washcloth. When the bleeding wouldn’t stop, I went to immediate care, where they applied a salve to the wound and teased me at my carelessness. My blood, everywhere.
When I was 18, I broke a bottle in my right hand, drunk and stupid. When I was 26, I sliced off part of the tip of my left thumb in a commercial kitchen. I thought I would sleep with a new lover for the first time that night; instead I called the Ask a Nurse line because the bleeding wouldn’t stop. When I was 31, I skinned my knee on a night with many holes in it. No holes in my stockings and no blood on my dress, but a scrape deep enough to scar. A mystery. When I was 32, I skinned my shoulder and elbow and knee and ankle on the lakefront path. When asked if I was OK, I held up my arm, and immediately the line at the water fountain stepped aside so I could wash away the blood.
This week I will try again to get an IUD, but before that can happen, the doctor will do a pregnancy test because combining the two – a pregnancy and a device meant to prevent pregnancy – can be very, very dangerous. As I have prepared myself for this procedure, I’ve thought about the test that comes before it, and wondered what I would do if I found myself pregnant at this point in my life. I sat at my kitchen table with a friend whose body I have known intimately though not sexually, and we talked about the fear and wonder we feel about pregnancy, just as we once felt fear and wonder about menstruation. Once this thing felt so hard and strange, but now it is normal until it ceases to be so – or ceases to be.
I have sat waiting for the test. For me it has always been negative. And I have sat quietly with others when the test was not negative – on the linoleum floor in the kitchen where I bled, or at the other end of the phone on a beach 3,000 miles away, or in spaces in between while women I love have made unimaginable choices.
This is about love but it is also true for life, this life, the life that we’re choosing and making and enduring. “I learned what I had read in books but I never had actually believed: that love and suffering are the same thing and that the value of love is the sum of what you have to pay for it and anytime you get it cheap you have cheated yourself.”
This life doesn’t come cheap. It is marked on our bodies in scars and stretch marks, broken bones that ache with the weather, tattoos of the ghosts of who we once were, of the things we want to remember. The scar where I scraped myself the day I moved out of my house, a cut that wouldn’t have happened had I been wearing my wedding ring. The deep scars from a tiny cat who wouldn’t be held, and who left us too soon. The two channels through my ear pierced once, reminders of an infection and of my grandpa’s steady hand with the surgical wire. The scar tissue under my skin from too many bike accidents, and the scar tissue inside of me from the biopsies that found nothing. And all of the other things that leave no marks.
This is how we remember, even as our bodies move through their courses, even as our wounds are repaired, even as time heals. Our bodies remember. Our muscles remember. Our skin remembers. Our hearts remember.