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Mark Bair 2018

In the previous story, “The Finger Reveals,” I mentioned how sensitive to pain I am. And yet, fear and sensitivity did not protect me from my fair share of head wounds. Sometimes I wonder if part of my weirdness is from these injuries.

There was the time, around the age of seven, when I was swinging upside down like a trapeze artist on our swing set and slammed my head into a pole, leaving a goose egg.  A few years later, Mickey Mitchell, a bleached blonde younger boy, hit me in the eye with a baseball bat as he swung obliviously. Goose egg and a black eye. 

I laugh as I write “goose egg.” I asked my wife if it’s an actual term. Sure enough, it is. The Internet said so. I learned that a goose egg happens because there are so many blood vessels in and under the scalp. Even a light bump can rupture the vessels. Because the blood has nowhere to go, it pushes out. According to the New York Times, “children have an even smaller space for the blood to collect, so their goose eggs can be especially prominent.” That’s why my first one seemed so big. Well, my Mom was prepared with a bag of frozen peas. I was so glad I did not have to eat them.

A year or two after Mickey Mitchell bashed my head in, my brother Mike hit me just above my eye with a putt-putt golf club on the ninth hole of a fabulous course. Mike did not understand the putt part. My overwhelmed grandmother rushed me in her historic limo-length Chrysler Newport to the hospital for stiches.

When I was fifteen, I was riding in a 1969 Mustang muscle car with my cousin Randy, who did not have a driver’s license because he was also fifteen! And he was driving the car, not on a paved road, but on an uneven and slippery footpath in the woods. We were barreling at an absurd speed when we slammed into an unmovable tree! My head cracked the windshield, but I was not cut. Randy’s head had a four inch gash, so they had to shave a spot just above the left hemisphere of his brain so the wound could be sewed. It looked rather odd, since he had shoulder length hair.

A couple years later, a guy named Keith, Cheryl Hays’ lineman-sized boyfriend, mistook me for the guy who hit on her. When he punched me in the eye I did see stars, and fell dizzily to the ground. By the next day, I was feeling kind of proud of my latest black eye. I survived Keith’s rage, and I had the proof. And a good story.

After that, I was injury-free for around twenty years, at least head-injury free. I was cautiously playing paintball with my ex-marine friend Jeff and his buddies. I was getting bored, so I tried charging the enemy base. I was hit smack dab in the middle of my forehead. It stung, but I was so proud of my boldness. The shot left an interesting dot that gave me a chance to boast.

After getting bashed and bruised up all those times, I sometimes wonder, is my head like an NFL player’s? Are there consequences on the way? Have I made some of my bad decisions because of my brain trauma? It would be nice to blame it on that. I don’t know the answer, but it strikes me as kind of funny that a sensitive kid like me would get banged up like that! I am surprised at the resilience of the human body, and need to reconsider my commitment to cautious living.

I was going to end the story here, but writing about head wounds led to thinking about heart wounds. Unlike physical injuries, it is harder to tell when, or if, emotional pain “heals.” Is it important that it heals? Do painful memories have value? Does avoiding them help? Do we sometimes lay over them interpretations that add to the pain?

I looked over the other stories in this book, and realized there are a lot of heart wounds on these pages. And many of those wounds are felt hand in hand with joy. One of the stories is about love conveyed through wounds.

I have yet to write about my deepest wounds. Apparently, I believe keeping them at a distance is helpful. But perhaps giving words to some of them will help me do the further work.