Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the edge.

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.

7 comments:

Toast said...

proud in that odd way that we can be about traumas

I feel that way whenever I injure something doing Karate.

East Coast Teacher said...

I know exactly what you mean.

I ran into my h.s. French teacher at my part-time job tonight. Haven't seen her since I was 17 - nearly 12 years ago.

Where does the time go?

Veronica said...

I remember scoffing at the GIRLS who wore the arm guards during archery and proudly rarely hit myself. But yeah...bruises are badges of honor. I still want to take it up. Hey, Geena Davis did it, why can't I?

Anonymous said...

That was eloquent and moving. I'm saving it for future rereads.

Jared Goralnick said...

Time flies...and rediscovering a little bit of Springtime from the past really is a pretty nice thought. I think I ought to work on that....

Cheryl said...

Love the reminder of how powerful scents are. Final Net hairspray reminds me of junior high school choir tour. Finesse shampoo, the summer I spent in CA. Great post, leading me on a quick trip down memory lane. Wonder what scents take others down memory lane.

Cheryl Smith

Hugo said...

Indeed, lovely, kate. Where does the time go indeed. I'm 40, and two years ago one of my high school classmates became... a grandfather. It was a bit shattering.

And I can still remember the smells and tastes and sounds of high school.