I don’t need a calendar to tell me it’s been a year.
I can feel it in the air when I step outside, the crisp wind that tears leaves from trees and sends them skidding down Minneapolis sidewalks.
Images crowd in at the periphery of my memory. I don’t need to glance at them to know what they hold, I can feel it in my skin.
It’s been a year but some days last fall feels like yesterday, when the life I knew turned to ashes in my hands and was sent skidding down Minneapolis sidewalks.
“It’s been a year,” I say. “Why does it still feel this near?”
“You carry it in your body,” she tells me. “It’s been a year, but it hasn’t been a year of autumns. You’ll need to put more autumns between you before your body starts to forget.”
I cut off the tip of my thumb last month.
It was your standard kitchen accident — chopping onions to saute for dinner, and I missed. The blade sliced right through nail and skin and flesh before I even realized what had happened.
I yelled, wrapped it up in a paper towel, and kept cooking.
Later that night, when the bleeding had stopped, I peeled back the paper towel and tried to clean things up. As soon as I did, blood sprayed out of my thumb again, splattering the wall and dripping onto the bathroom floor.
I wrapped it up again, but soon realized that I wasn’t going to be able to stop the bleeding alone. So in the middle of the night, I drove to the emergency room.
The pain that night was remarkable. Fingertips are full of nerve endings which apparently don’t like to be sliced off like onions. I gritted my teeth and swore under my breath and tossed and turned until morning.
A month later, I hardly feel a thing.
The ugly wide-open gash has grown skin again, the nail has grown back, and my left hand doesn’t throb anymore.
Human bodies are miraculous things, really, the way they heal themselves. Something that was so remarkably painful that night a few weeks ago is just a barely-visible scar this morning.
All I had to do was stop the bleeding, and then wait.
“Please, fix me,” I’ve begged my therapist more than once (though I know she cannot).
She smiles and says, “I’m not going to heal you. Time will heal you. Good relationships will heal you. I’ll help you hang on until then.”
She looks at the wide-open wounds in my chest, bleeding all over her couch and walls and floor. She tells me it won’t be like a skin graft, a patch slapped over all the torn-open places. Instead, it will be something new, grown in from the edges. It will heal so very much slower than I want it too, but it will heal. Someday, maybe, it will be barely visible scars.
published October 16, 2015
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