the jagged edge of the scar (draft three)

The jagged edge of the scar raises slightly on the thumb of my left hand, a small break in the smooth whorls of my fingerprint.
Amidst the lie of memory, the sensation of drowning holds. The location changes—a pool, the ocean, the lake behind Grandmother’s house. The last seems most likely; we spent many summers there locked outside with the two-word command “go play” booming from a faceless depth before us.
Our play consisted of the dangerous practice of the dead man’s float.
My cousin taught us. In order to play dead and look believable you had to relax.
More experienced actors opened their eyes, boldly staring apparently into the murky brown-green depths.
A rumor grew that if you stared for long enough and thought “I think I see a dead man” you could see the date and manner of your own death.
I went first. My body was simultaneously cold and sticky hot; briefly I considered bowing out but we were there with the cousins for another week. Mom would be leaving tomorrow and coming to get us in six days. I wouldn’t dare face them without being able to properly float as a dead man.
The water was cool and calm, lapping over my body and enveloping me in a familiar comfort. I relaxed, wondering if I could drift off, telling myself that I could probably float for at least a minute and a half before I would need to breathe.
I opened my eyes. The immediate burn shattered the calm—from miles away I heard the screeching of loons, but they were swallowed almost immediately as the calm of the water shifted, beginning to strangle me in a murderous caress.
I opened my mouth to scream and took in water; flailing my body began to burn, the pain rushing from my limbs into my brain.
Dying. I’m dying. I thrashed about, suspended in life for what felt like eternity.
Cool arms dragged me to the surface; vaguely I was aware of Mom’s familiar warmth, her lips pressing against me, coupled with the sting of her repeated slaps across my cheeks.
When I came to I saw the wrinkle in between her brows first.
Our eyes met, the familiarity of hers softening me and steadying my breathing. My entire body ached as I struggled to sit up, my throat soured with acid.
Mom’s eyes held mine until I steadied my body; she reached back her hand and slapped me, her palm colliding with my face with a force that caused lights to burst in my vision. My ears rung from the pain and the embarrassment. The cousins, aunts, Grandmother, my siblings, neighbors—all were there.
“Don’t you ever do that again! Don’t you ever do that again! Do you understand me?”
My eyes burned again, this time with the unforgiving pain of unshed tears. Fleeing into the house Mom’s face froze in my mind, the angry curl of her lips coupled with the unabashed fear in her eyes.
She found me in the closet of the room my cousin and I shared. I was staring down at the cut on my finger, deep and fresh, scarlet flowing gently and dripping onto the pale carpet.
She sighed as she slumped down beside me, taking my hand in hers wordlessly.
She pressed our fingers together, side by side.
On her hand a fresh cut blossomed, the still-flowing blood seeping into her own whorls.
“I have one, too.”
In the now I reach for the memory, gripping it to me.
I lay in her closet among her things, picking at the old wound. Not even a scab. Just a scar.
Memories lie. Memories change. In my memory I tell her I hate her after. Right after she says she has a cut I tell her that.
I hope the memory is wrong. They lie. They aren’t perfect.
We weren’t perfect.
Hate was strong. I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t.
In the now my ears ring. I hear the words that I hope I didn’t say. They showed me her face. They should have showed the hand.
I could go back. I would go back. I would ask to see her hand first. Before she even noticed me bleeding.
I wouldn’t say it. She wouldn’t believe it.
I wouldn’t have the scar.


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