I waited as she impassively studied my arm. Waited for her to say something. Anything. The silence was killing me. Eventually, she tilted her head to one side and grunted.
“So…are you gonna tell me just what it is I’m supposed to be looking at, or…?”
Inwardly, I smiled. Her refusal to judge, even when confronted with what would cause so many others to jump to conclusions, was one of the things which had persuaded me to trust her. She looked at me with a mixture of clinical inquisitiveness and soft encouragement. I pursed my lips and began.
“When I was twenty, I had a cancer scare. I found these lumps all up the right side of my neck, and my dad had a gander an’ told me they were lymph nodes. That was when I panicked; I was certain, absolutely convinced, that I had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma or some shit. My dad cheerfully told me I had nothing to worry about, that the nodes often swelled up due to mild infections, but I wasn’t listening. I was a kid with anxiety, a penchant for the melodramatic, and way, way too much access to Wikipedia. I knew, right down to my bones, that I was dying-”
“So you slashed your upper arm up with a razor?”
“Shut up and let me finish. Jesus… So I had all sorts of tests; X-rays, blood tests… It was only when my doctor was inspecting me and felt, rather than actually saw, the scars on my right arm that he worked out what had happened; I’d cut myself with a dirty blade and infected the bloodstream. In response my lymph nodes on that side had gone mental fighting the infection, and boom! Lumps on my neck. I felt like a fucking idiot. Which I guess I was, to be honest…
Anyway. I had to tell me dad – purely to stop him wasting more of his money on pointless tests – but I begged him, pleaded with him, not to tell mum. I don’t really know why it meant so much to me… She couldn’t give much of a shit at the best of times, so you’d think I’d want to get her back in some way, I dunno. For whatever reason, I was desperate that she didn’t find out. My dad wasn’t keen – you already know how keeping secrets from me mum had landed him in some pretty scolding hot water a few years previously. He wanted to be the open, honest husband she demanded that he be. God knows how I managed it, but I persuaded him to keep schtum. I’ll always be grateful to him for that…
After a few years went by, I stopped caring about who saw the mess I’d made of my arm. At first I’d been ashamed, as ya would be I spose, but as I got older I realised that, although the stupid kid who sliced himself up was gone, it was still me. That’s why I’m showing you; I want you to know, I’m proud of who I am and where I come from. Every tear, every laugh, every faux pas, every instant of triumph… They’ve all made me who I am today. Every dumbass mistake and every inspired decision. They’re all mine, nobody else’s. There are still moments I regret, of course there are, but they’re mine. All mine. Nobody can take that away from me. The person you see before you, the person you claim to like… I want you to know everything that made him, good and bad. Only then can you love him. Only then can you love me.”
“Christ, you talk an awful lot of bullshit sometimes.”
I laughed. She’d nailed it. I was undeniably prone to rambling off into pseudo-profundities and waxing lyrical about total nonsense – unless brought to a halt by someone wiser and less loquacious.
She smiled graciously and kissed me on the cheek.
“It’s sweet though. I appreciate it, I really do.”
“Cheers darlin. I knew you’d understand.”
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☆