If I hadn’t closed my eyes when I did, I would have been blinded. Probably. The wooden spoon was smacked against my face with such force and speed that it created two open cuts around my right eye and produced a devastating sound. My collection of scars had begun at six years old.
Brian and I were raised more like siblings rather than uncle and niece, so I embellished the pain more than was necessary to ensure he’d get in trouble. Naturally. I’m not sure what made him dish out the wooden spoon treatment. It might have been because I kept pestering him to take me along for a bike ride with his friends. He had recently installed the shiny metal pegs onto the back wheel of his maroon bike, which was covered in silver scratches – a testament of his toughness on the homemade neighborhood dirt bike jumps.
I held onto his shoulders, standing on the pegs behind him, my head tilted downward. He was peddling at a moderate speed, my hands going up and down in sync with his shoulders. The whipping wind against the fresh cuts stung, and my eyes were squinting from smiling too much. As I grabbed a handful of shirt with one hand, the other had found its way around to my backpack, fumbled with the zipper, grabbed the wooden spoon, and torpedoed it into the back wheel spoke. The revenge of blood and dirt never tasted so good.
What was I talking about when I felt the hairs on my arms begin to singe? The memory escapes me now but what I do recall is that I was not going to react how he wanted me to. He needed more than just the slight twitch of my eyes. It was a test of endurance.
I barely noticed as he pulled up my sleeve and pressed our forearms up against one another’s, creating a small valley for his half-smoked cigarette to rest in. Whoever pulled away first was the loser. The pain was dulled by my pride as well as the six gin and tonics coursing through my veins. The November wind was on my side, cooling the ache that was gradually gaining momentum. His smug grin failed to escape my periphery, so I simply continued on with my conversation and took a drag from my own cigarette.
He repositioned the same burning dart three times and grew more agitated as I continued to ignore him. As he began to light another pawn for this useless battle against me and his girlfriend appearing to be too “friendly” with one another for his liking, I knew it was time to end this silly war.
Sobriety had left the scene of this crime hours before and would take no responsibility for when I plucked the remains of the cigarette from its carefully balanced resting place, my skin numb to the last of its flickering embers and extinguished it, drilling it down deep into my arm. I remained silent, glaring into his eyes as the live burn slowly transformed into an oval of smudged ash on skin.
Your grandmother, Juanita, her auburn hair in a tight high bun and tinted glasses that dominated her face, stared at me from across your bed. Surrounded by her own four walls and encased behind a thin pane of glass, it was the only photograph you had of her. She was balanced on a tiled shelf that jutted out from the wall of our room, once a ledge to a window leading to the kitchen, now boarded up. You once said I had her hands. I couldn’t touch you the same way after that.
As I stumbled into our room, I could feel Juanita’s eyes following me. An intruder in your bed. I only meant to set her down on her face, but the news that you had decided to stay in Kentucky made my anger a more potent force. When I awoke the next morning, I was alone. Except for Juanita. I walked over and saw her on the floor, covered in shards of glass. A jagged triangle caught my eye. There was no thought process as I dragged it slowly against my skin. What was once used to protect was now being used to destroy. It had to be slow, deliberate. The cocktail of unsavory substances blurred any chance of normal vision. Yet somehow a straight line was achieved. Perhaps it was Juanita guiding our hand. It would be easy to transform into a feather someday.