Whenever I decide to wear a short-sleeve shirt, my scar is perfectly visible. Actually, since it is right below my left elbow, it’s often enough to roll up the sleeve of a regular shirt to show it. And people usually do notice it easily. It’s huge, and it’s – not that I’m boasting – rather impressive: almost like some sort of a fancy symbol. A person imaginative enough would see something really amazing in it, like a decaying leaf or some tangled spider’s web.
It took me a lot of time – definitely too much – before I finally realized I could actually use that scar to my own advantage. Suddenly it came to me that people don’t have to know the real story that stands behind it. Because, let’s face it: the real story was a piece of shit. But the good news was that, since it happened in my early childhood, barely anyone – basically no one apart from my family – knew the actual story. So it left me a lot of room to make up a better one. Or a few better ones. And so I started to invent stories.
Of course, the main reason behind all of them was – and still is – to pique the girls’ interest in me. And so, depending on the kind of girl I try to impress, the story takes different shape. There is a brave story about me saving my younger brother from the angry dog. There is a terrifying story about me being attacked by a criminal with a knife on my way home. There is a sad story about me trying to save my cat from drowning and getting tangled in barbed wire. And there is a funny story about me trying to prove my strength after a few beers and having a close encounter with a window glass. With the passing time I got so good at telling it, that I rarely failed at impressing a girl. I always knew which story I should use with the particular girl to keep her interested. It turned out they weren’t so hard to read, after all. They weren’t that much different from one another as one generally assumes.
But lately I’ve realized one simple thing about my scar: true or made up, it always requires some sort of explanation. There has to be some story behind it. Or, well, maybe the scar itself is the story: the story imprinted onto my body. I can make it look better, deeper or more significant with every single story I happen to come up with, but I can’t make it disappear. It is always there. Always getting in the way, always visible, always with me. And sooner or later everyone – literally everyone – asks me that question: what happened to you there? And even though I can lie to them without an end, I can’t refuse to answer. I can’t contradict the existence of it. I can make up its origin, play with its outcome, maybe even try to hide it, but I can’t change the fact that it happened to me. I can’t leave it at home, can’t erase it. It’s an inseparable part of me. The part I have to live with, whether I like it or not.
And it is kind of funny, isn’t it? Turns out that even though you can quite freely shape the things that happened to you by assigning them new meanings or adding some impressive side stories, you can never get rid of them. And it made me wonder: doesn’t it work the same way with our memories? Aren’t our memories like scars imprinted onto our minds? Shaped, changed, embellished, often greatly distorted, but always there, at the back of our heads?
Because, you see, it seemed to be the case with Marylyn: somehow, she always is somewhere at the back of my head. I could cover her up, just like I cover the scar on my arm by putting on a long-sleeve shirt: bury her deep underneath other memories and all those more or less significant matters. And I often did. But, just like with the scar, it has never made her disappear. Of course, for the most part, I could – and I did – pretend she’s not really there, and it would – actually did – work just fine. But I couldn’t fool myself for too long: she was always lurking at the corner of my every thought. I could learn to put her aside every time she popped up inside my head, but it didn’t change the simple fact: she was always there, at the back of my head. Like a proper scar on my mind.
And her – well, our – story, just like the story about my scar, evolved with time and took many different shapes. The more time has passed, the better I have become at shaping it to my own needs. The task was the easier that it was never a clear relationship between us. Neither of us knew – or decided upon – what our “meeting-ups” really meant, so we were free to shape their meaning to our own liking.
So there are a few stories about her. There is the heart-breaking story about her being cold-hearted and rather cruel towards me, who helplessly fell in love with her. There is the sad story about her having problems so huge that we couldn’t go past them and unanimously decided it would be better to part our ways. There is the fair – and rather vague – story about us being torn apart by the passing time and some unfavourable circumstances. And then, there is the real story: she eventually figured out what she wanted and, consequently, gave up on us.
It wasn’t that I didn’t expect that. Out of us two, it had to be her who’d figure things out first. She was (and still is, I suppose) the type of girl – or not girl, person – who likes everything in her world to make sense. To her, everything means something, and matters in relation to this “bigger picture” that she was trying to draw. And as long as there were two of us who didn’t know what we were doing with our lives, needs and desires, we worked just fine: without any definition, without openly stating anything, without assigning the meaning or getting too attached to each other. We just sort of were: together, occasionally. But from the very beginning it was clear to me that she, unlike me, was constantly searching for that deeper meaning of our relation. And yes, I tried my best to convince her that she shouldn’t care so much; that she actually can, just for once, go with the flow, without caring about the consequences. After all, lack of responsibility was supposed to be the part of our deal. But that never really worked. Her mind was unstoppable.
So I knew it was a matter of time. It was bound to happen, and so it eventually did.
And yet, it took me by surprise when she informed me it just has to end.
And the funniest thing about it was – and still is – that when I first met her, I would have never thought she would – or could – ever become anyone important to me. As a matter of fact, I may have realized that she is – or at least has become – someone quite important to me, only when she quit our deal. Actually, I’ve realized a lot only when it ended.
You see, our deal seemed perfect to me: we weren’t looking for a relationship, but we both felt rather lonely in our lives at that time, so we sort of agreed that it would be nice to have someone to cuddle with in the cold evenings. Sure, for a long time I sincerely hoped cuddle-buddies would evolve into fuck-buddies, but sadly it never went further than the second base. I grew to respect her boundaries: I realized that crossing them would mean taking some responsibility. And responsibility was the last thing I needed in my life. Or so I thought, because the sad truth is that I’ve never really escaped it: it caught me up anyway.
I thought that it – whatever it actually was between us – was neither serious, nor mentally engaging. I was pretty convinced it was all about fulfilling our most basic need of physical contact with another person. Turned out I was wrong. It seemed that way, but it wasn’t. It’s quite possible that we achieved the exact opposite of what we were hoping for. Maybe if we had become fuck-buddies, it would have not grown that serious. No, don’t ask me why, I don’t get it either, but for some inexplicable reason, cuddles and kisses turned out to be more mentally engaging than sex. And she realized that long before that thought crossed my mind.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking now: that once she was gone, I suddenly understood that she is the only one I could be with. And here, I must severely disappoint you: I wasn’t in love with her. Sure, over the time we spent together, I grew very fond of her, and her quitting did hurt me. But what came to me when she was out of the picture, was not so much about her, as about me: I suddenly realized that I’m not as much against the idea of relationship as I used to be. I don’t know when and how exactly did she manage to do that, but somewhere between the lines and our cuddles, she helped me conquer my eternal fear of things getting too serious.
Sure, long after she had become my past, I still wasn’t ready to commit myself to any serious relationship, but at least I was no longer afraid of it. And with every girl I met after her, I grew more and more aware that every word she ever uttered to me stayed somewhere inside me and came back to me whenever I needed it. And it turned out I needed them – and may still actually need them – quite a lot.
But when she was giving me all those thoughts and advice that I only now have learnt to cherish, I pretended I couldn’t hear them. I pretended that I neither cared about them, nor needed them. I remember quite well how much I hated all her attempts to talk serious with me. I tended to cut her off every time she started. My habit of trivializing literally everything she was trying to point out for me, was making her furious. And yet, she never missed the opportunity to try. When I think about it now, I find her determination quite impressive.
But, regardless of our deal, my behaviour was never fair, and it was clear that she wouldn’t bear with my shit forever. She deserved more and she knew it. That’s why she quit.
For a very long time I wasn’t ready to admit that she has become a scar on my mind. I didn’t want to admit that she mattered and her talking, which I had despised so much, actually worked on me. I didn’t want to feel guilty about treating her badly. I didn’t want to take responsibility, and I didn’t want to think about it. But even though I tried quite hard, I eventually reconciled with the fact that it’s impossible: I could cover her up, shape to my needs, or hide, but not get rid of her. She was my scar, whether I liked it or not.
And regardless of the story I’ll choose to tell about her tomorrow, she is never going to disappear. She will always be there: at the back of my head. My scar.