Learning To Love You More




Assignment #11
Photograph a scar and write about it.

Louise Brown
London, UK



So Sen was my best friend. She was small and sweet and Chinese. I was big and English and so shy my voice was "barely audible" to quote a school report.
As I recall it, for five year olds, our relationship was intense. I remember holding hands with her and tenderly touching the tips of our tongues together then squealing and smiling with disgust and delight. Similarly thrilling was when she screwed up her face to resemble a tiger, her vicious little fingers clawing at the air in front of my face as she roared at me (I can't remember returning the favour).
Most lunchtimes we would play "Witches". Witches was an elaborate hide and seek game that involved the designated witch grabbing at "the children" with a grimace and a cackle and then dragging them back to her lair where the children would all be put in an imaginary cauldron ready for the witch to eat for dinner.
The witch's lair was the back of a wooden shed in our school playground and So Sen was usually the witch. There was only ever one witch despite the name of the game and she was the best on account of her characterization and black hair.
I wasn't a fast runner but as one of "the children" I always enjoyed being taken back to the lair so mostly recall dawdling around the shed waiting to get picked up. I wanted to be giggling with So Sen much more than running around with the others and remember feeling distressed about the random, Brownian nature necessary to being a child in the game which could leave you on your own for ages if you were really successful.
One day as I was taken back to the lair So Sen pushed me quite hard against the side of the shed - she may have been half my size but she was strong and was dedicated to her part. I felt a small pain in my left forearm near my elbow but ignored it and carried on the game.
When I got home that afternoon my mother noticed that something was up because I was "worrying" my arm - touching it a lot and frowning. She inspected the damage and found some redness and a small black dot and after I explained what had happened she realised it must be a splinter that had got lodged in there.
My mother got to work - she boiled a pan of water, popped a pin in to sterilize it and got the TCP bottle down from the high cupboard in the kitchen. Within moments she had despatched the small slither of wood, disinfected me and sent me off to play with a smile on her face.
But after a few days the redness returned. My arm started to feel heavy and I would hold it as I dragged my feet around the playground. About a week later my arm appeared volcanic as a build up of pus had forced the skin around my elbow up into a taut, red shiny mound around a raised yellowing bump where the splinter had been removed.
Back at home in my room after school I heard my mother calling me from the kitchen downstairs. I arrived at the kitchen door to see her sat on a chair by the window, my big sister standing by her, a willing assistant driven by grisly curiosity.
On the table there was another pain of boiling water sterilizing mother's instruments - a darning needle this time, and alongside it a towel and a mug - my mug - filled with milk on the table. I never drank straight milk at home, it made me gag, and I recall thinking that it was a clue that something was wrong (looking back it was most likely she'd run out of strawberry nesquick milkshake mix but had faith in milk's medicinal properties as kiddie sedative).
I walked towards my mother, I didn't need to be told. She took my arm in her hand, twisting it to hold it up to the light. She told me to look away and concentrate on sipping the milk.
For whatever reason she gave me the milk like that it was a masterstroke. I was never a child to make a fuss, so my focus ended up solely on getting the milk down without heaving like a cat bringing up a furball. All I can remember is feeling sick because I was being made to drink milk and wishing it was in a glass and a lot cooler than it was and then it being over and her showing me the inch long, half an inch thick piece of wood that she eventually, after much pressing and pushing and easing, dug out of my arm. The volcano had erupted, leaving what seemed to a five year old an enormous crater - actually about the size of a penny - that I referred to as "the hole in my arm".
At school over the coming days, I got loads of attention from the other kids at school as they saw the still slightly pussy blood seep through the lint bandages that I would lift for them if they asked nicely to sneak them a peek. I'm sure So Sen said she was sorry, but she needn't have.
I can't recall playing with So Sen much after that, but we may have done, just not with such momentous consequences. I think she left our school a few years later or we may have just been in separate classes and so grew apart that way. I doubt So Sen even remembers my name now but I will never forget her.