I’m three years old and I’m bored.
I’m behind the counter of the newsagents my Nana and Grandad run. Eventually they tire of my getting under their feet and I am shooed out the back.
I wander from the counter, past the towering cliffs of boxes and shelves, of confectionery and old newsprint and emerge out the open back door into the ‘garden’. It’s a hot dusty space scattered with rocks and tufts of grass. It’s walled in by a tall, paint-free fence. There’s less to do out here than there was inside.
Something shiny over by the fence’s gate catches my eye. I toddle over and bend at the waist to look down at it: a curved triangle of glass sits in the dust and glints in the late afternoon sun.
If I widened my fingers and placed my index finger on one of the points, I should be able to hold it. In my mind, I see the still waters of the pond in the park. I see myself bend low and throw to make the glass spin in mid-air. The curved bottom of the glass hits the water and skips and skips and skips. I hear the gasps and then the clapping hands of everyone in the park who saw the throw.
I pick up the glass from the dirt. It fits perfectly between the inch or two span between my thumb and index finger. One of the points even has a little notch in it that’ll provide that extra little bit of grip. It’ll spin so fast.
I’m excited by the prospect of all the proud and happy and amazed faces when they see what I can do. But I had to do it good. I didn’t want to let anyone down.
I think it would be a good idea to do a practice throw.
I shuffle back towards the gate and squint through the dust and sunshine at the back door of the shop. I lean over, knees bent, and get low to the ground, just as I was taught. I settle the pad of my forefinger into the notch on the glass. I’m ready. I feel big and grown up like my brother.
I move my arm back and then hurl it forward, fast and low and shallow. My wrist snaps round at the perfect time at the end of the swing. I feel the glass, tight against the pad of finger, as I release it.
It flies away, spinning madly. The glass hits the ground and leaves a puff of dust. It bounces, one dusty skip after another as it nears the back door.
For a moment it is perfect.
And then I notice there is something wrong with my hand. There is something wrong with my finger. It feels wet.
I look down and blood is pouring out of my three year-old index finger. That was when the pain began.
Up to here the memory is clear. After? I don’t remember much, but what I do remember has stayed with me, along with the scar.
The scar: if you look down onto the top of my index finger, you’ll see at the right-hand corner of the fingernail a ridge. This is where the scar begins. Follow it round and it moves down the inside of the finger to reach about three-quarters of the way to the first knuckle. It twists there and turns into the pad of the finger, and ends just below the centre of the fingerprint whorl. It looks like a mirrored ‘J’ from the front.
The memories: running into the shop screaming; a blurry car ride; a hospital waiting room; concerned mum and dad; a huge many bulbed and mirrored light; green cloth; screaming; mum and dad at the theatre door told to stay out; masked doctors struggling to keep my hand still and my finger pointed upwards; the finger, strangely pale, sticking up out of a sea of green, the flesh of the finger splayed open, looking impossibly red (with a hint of white) within; a wicked fish hook needle and black thread; my screaming; throbbing invisible flesh under a bulbous white bandage.
What I remember most, apart from the pain, is the red gaping wound that was part of me, at least for a little while before the surgeon sewed it closed. Later, I became fascinated by the idea that my body could be open in that way and that I could see inside myself.
This thought has stayed with me, and made me want to write about how bodies and minds can be opened in ways that they were never meant, or expected, to.
Note: I am glad to report that I have never attempted to skim a triangular piece of glass again.