there’s a perfume that i wore when i was 14 years old. you can still get it today. that particular scent – that smell – you can still buy it in a store.
i am actually wearing it right now.
during my freshman year of high school, we spent a few weeks learning archery. it was the fall semester. leisurely, low-slung afternoons in gym glass, out along the soccer fields behind the school, learning how to fit a bow into an arrow – how to aim – how to shoot.
no, maybe it was the spring.
i enjoyed archery. the first lesson taught the basic mechanics of the enterprise, which were so simple and so difficult all at once – to balance the tip of the arrow in the notch of the bow, to pull the surprisingly resistant string taut and load it for bear. but i got the hang of it. i stared down the length of the arrows to the fat canvas targets beyond – the red, yellow, and blue rings – and tried not to second guess my aim. or not to second guess it that much, because, of course, there are always adjustments to be made. and i could usually, at least, hit the thick wheel of foam and fabric, elicit the satisfying thud that meant a mark had been found. it felt good – good to do this, even absent any real reason why.
just hit the mark. just don’t miss.
the next day, i woke up in the morning to find a huge bruise on my right arm – a darkening, oblong welt the size of an oyster shell on the inside of my elbow. to the inside of the inside, really – next to the crook, just to the left of where the nurse stretches your skin to look for a vein, eases the needle in, pulls the blood clean out.
it had gotten in the way. the edge of my elbow, the edge of myself. and i had kept hitting it - again and again and again - without knowing.
while it was grotesque, i have to admit that i was proud of it, in a perverse kind of way. proud in that odd way that we can be about traumas – like they signify something bigger just by happening. something went wrong, but at least there was evidence that something had happened at all. undeniable – the marking of me, the mistake made tangible. i watched it turn purple, then fade into yellow and grey over days and weeks. i kept it out of the way of the arrow’s snap from then on, and eventually, it went away.
when i walked out of the store earlier today – after i had sprayed my wrists and the nape of my neck with a perfume i haven’t worn in fifteen years – i found myself thinking suddenly of those afternoons, of the sound of the arrows piercing the canvas, of the first startled moment of discovering that manifest consequence, that oval bruise. i thought about time, and how i can’t get a handle on the way it moves through me – its movement not just through years, and through space, but through flesh and bone. how? how does it do that?
it must have been spring.