I have one on the side of my left index finger. It’s about…well it’s over twenty years old I guess. I was trying to slice a day-old bagel with a dull knife. The knife slipped, and though it wasn’t sharp enough to slice through the bagel crust, it was plenty sharp to slice through the side of my finger.
It was a little scary. And pretty bloody. I applied pressure, wrapped it in bandages or gauze or something, and had to go sit down.
Of course, I called my sister. I wanted someone to be on the phone with me in case I bled out.
That’s how my mind worked.
Still works. Though I haven’t been that stupid with a knife and a day-old bagel since, so I can’t be positive.
I’ve had other scars that have faded, though I remember them and where they would be. Scars on my knuckles from where my best friend’s people-shy dog didn’t recognize me (in a costume) and snapped at me.
I’ve got one under my left knee where I got six stitches after a bike accident (that’s bicycle, not motor) while on a newly paved road. I actually enjoyed that experience – the nurses wanted me to lie back while the doctor stitched, but I told them I wanted to watch. It was pretty cool.
I used to have one between my eyes from where I got hit by a metal lunchbox because two boys were fighting on the bus on our ride home. I think I was in first grade, but I don’t really remember that part. Just trying not to cry until I was safely home.
I have other scars that don’t show on my skin.
Don’t we all?
My first real job, not counting the paper route, was as a busgirl in a restaurant. Simple enough – clear and set tables.
I was shy and quiet and terrified of doing something wrong. Not just at this job, but pretty much everywhere, I think. I was afraid of getting in trouble, whatever that meant and wherever that came from. It was, in retrospect, paralyzing.
This restaurant…it had a reputation back then. If you could work there – and survive it – you could work at any restaurant in the state.
There was a lot of yelling. I didn’t come from a loud family, was not part of a loud culture. I was afraid to do something wrong there, afraid of being yelled at. Afraid I’d be fired right out there in the dining room, which was not unheard of in this establishment. Waitresses or busgirls were yelled at in front of customers if the owner(s) felt like it. Survival meant doing your job, keeping your head down, and looking busy even when there was nothing to do.
And there was rarely nothing to do. It was a busy place. I never felt like I was good enough. The fear of screwing up slowed me down, I imagine.
The money was good – busgirls received a percentage of the waitresses’ tips. At the end of the night (I worked weekends), as I counted out all the ones and fives from my apron pocket, I felt a little better about things.
But I felt sick to my stomach before every single shift.
I was fifteen.
And I didn’t want to be at that place. I was constantly afraid of the yelling, and also of the sarcasm. There was that, too. I cried easily back then (not much has changed) and it wasn’t something I could control. My skin was paper thin, and the yelling from the kitchen and the sarcasm elsewhere shredded me daily. Or that’s how it felt.
I wanted to leave.
But I didn’t know how. I tried telling my parents what it was like there. They’d gotten me the job, or the interview or something. My mother knew the owners from her job at a bank. But she never knew the yelling side. She’d never heard it. I think she thought I was exaggerating. Or overreatcing. So I couldn’t quit.
So I stayed. Through high school, through summers home from college. And I did relax. I waitressed, once I was old enough, I pretty much did every job I (a female) could do there. (Females dealt with customers, males were in the kitchen.) Things relaxed. Less yelling, for one thing.
Eventually I moved away, had other jobs, moved back and worked there again for around a year or so. I was welcomed back. It was like family.
But that first year or two or five…they’d left their mark.
And I find that at every new job I have ever held, I am, for the first weeks and months, waiting. Waiting to screw up. Waiting to be screamed at. Waiting for razor-sharp sarcasm to shred my skin again.
I started a new job recently. A great job. A right-up-my-alley job. I’ve been there just about a month now, and I am finally, bit by bit, starting to relax. I’m starting to be able to eat something before I go to work.
But I’m still that girl. I am overly sensitive. And I hate it. Why am I still so papery thin, skin-wise?
Especially when it’s not even necessary. There’s no yelling. There’s no sarcasm.
Instead, there is encouragement. Support. Help. Praise.
It’s freaking me out. I still, occasionally, find myself waiting for that axe to fall if I make a mistake.
But the only one who screams at me is me. In my head.
The only one with the sharpened sarcastic remarks is me. In my head.
I’m working on it. Those old, loud, annoying voices need to go away.
I’m working on it.