How fragile the body is: I don’t realize I have a paper cut until my finger stings and there is a sudden glut of blood. I don’t realize I have food poisoning until hours after I eat and I am woozy with nausea. When the plane descends, there is such a sharp pain in the back of my teeth, under my eyes, that I think I am going to die. I don’t realize it’s a sinus infection until the dentist tells me my teeth are fine, that sometimes, this happens. My legs get studded with so many mosquito bites and I can’t stop scratching; the itchiness is a kind of pain, and it feels so good to scratch, even though it’s making it much, much worse, that in fact, I am only hurting myself, over and over again.
We walk in the parking lot and my mom says, “Look, that palm tree got a haircut,” and I tip my head up and look and can’t find the tree and forget to pay attention to my feet and I realize I’ve tripped over a concrete slab, one of those innocuous wheel stops at the head of every parking space, and it’s too late to do anything and there is nothing to grab to reverse the momentum, I can only pitch forward, fall flat. On my palms and my knees. She screams when she sees me face-down on the asphalt. It’s not that bad; my knee is skinned and tiny pieces of gravel have torn my palms, and my mother directs us to march back to the supermarket and wash and slather on ointment and band-aids. I feel like the most stupid person alive. I am three years old again. My mom hooks her arm through mine when we walk outside, just in case, and I say, “Oh my God,” but it did happen, after all. Over the next couple weeks, I replace the band-aid, over and over again. I try airing it out, leaving the band-aid off, but whenever I bend my knees, the wound reopens. I become well-acquainted with the bandages aisle, the strong strips and the flexible fabric and the antibiotic pads. One day, finally, it’s completely healed: a strange, pale patch of skin.