Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.
~ Leonard Cohen
Five years ago I had open heart surgery. Open heart surgery is often cited as the most invasive of all medical procedures. Tubes were inserted into my chest and abdomen to drain blood and fluid during the procedure and after during healing. A foot and a half incision was then sliced vertically down my chest. My chest muscles were cleaved in half. What can only be described as a car jack was placed horizontally across my chest cavity and then slowly cranked open to spread my ribcage. Five of the six arteries attached to my heart were then severed. New tubes fashioned from a large vein in my leg (cut out in a separate procedure) were then stitched on to replaced the shit ones that got me on the table in the first place. The jack was then pulled out, my chest sewn up and I was wheeled to intensive care. After the blood and fluid stop seeping out of the tubes a few days later they were yanked out painfully with no anesthesia with a quick tug (yeah, surprised me too).
As graphic and invasive as that was I remember very little thanks to good drugs and addled brain. What still remains however is the scar. A long massive raised scar that has keloided. Keloids expand in claw-like growths over normal skin. They have the capability to hurt with a needle-like pain or to itch without warning. The pain is daily. At times it is maddening to the point of psychosis. I often wish it were just a faint, simple and unremarkable scar, a faded memory of a minor medical procedure like an appendectomy but the pain reminds me every day of my opened chest and exposed flesh.
I already had a small horizontal keloid scar on my chest. I had it since childhood and couldn’t tell you what caused it. But now it is bisected by the vertical surgical scar to form a cross making it both physical and metaphorical. The chest tubes have also left three small keloids at the base of the cross. I used to think they represented the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost quite nicely. I had taken to telling people I made it myself with a lit cigarette while in prison. Then a year later I was diagnosed with cancer.
In the end that too was beaten but cancer is different. No real lingering outward marks. Hair grows back. Weight loss is regained. But because I tend to keloid the entry in my chest where the port for my chemo went left a small raised scar just to the upper left of my cross and precisely the same size as my chest tube scars. So I now have four.
The number four is important in myth and religion. In many creation myths it takes four tries for god to get it right. The Pima Indians say it took Earth Doctor four tries to make humans out of clay. This is also true of Christianity.
Try One: Adam and Eve in the Garden.
Try Two: After eating the fruit they are expelled and the world remade outside of paradise.
Try Three: The world Noah repopulates after the flood.
And Try Four? That is the world yet to come. The world after Revelations. I guess that is why that last scar is in the upper left away from the others. It is the world yet to come. The one god is supposed to finally get right. As I lay in bed at night kept awake by the shooting pin needles coursing through my chest from my scar I often think about that …this is not the world he got right.