(Based on a true story ... loosely)
Let's start somewhere easy: I don't remember my childhood. Nothing particularly traumatic happened to me: I asked my parents. But others can recall their preschool years, their second grade plays where they dressed like bunnies and ate cake while sitting on plastic seesaws. I look at my elementary pictures and wonder what fourth grade was like.
Ok, so I lied.
I remember a few things, but one thing I can't remember is how I got this scar on my leg. I sit and stare at it as it shines in the moonlight, the lamplight, the sunlight. And I wonder, where did you come from, little scar? Was I bit by a cat? Did I fall out of a tree? Is this the aftermath of trying to pull a 180 turn in a pile of gravel on the asphalt? I don't know. But as I wonder, my thoughts turn to Shayla.
I discovered Shayla quite by accident. She just sort of appears in my memory, riding a bike on a sunny afternoon. The details of our friendship are fuzzy and my mom didn't want me going to her house and my dad didn't want me near her at all and I gave her my favorite doll before she disappeared from my memory. We were friends - fast friends. Our friendship blossomed quickly, and we were bound together forever the day she showed me her scars.
Why did she show me? Maybe I told her about the time I burned my hand on the stove. According to my folks, when I was, oh, three or so, I reached up and placed my tiny hand on a hot burner. Screaming and wailing on both sides ensued, and the next days were spent with my hand bundled and iced and propped on Dad's or Mom's shoulder as I fitfully dozed on their laps.
I bear no memories of this incident, and no scars.
But maybe I told Shayla this story one lazy summer afternoon while we hid from our folks in the lilac grove and dreamed of lives lived in far-off, exotic locations. Maybe that's why, unexpectedly, she took me into her confidence. Maybe that's why.
She said, "You wanna see something?" and then she took off her shirt to show me her frail little eight-year-old chest.
I had no words.
The swirled, twisted, striped texture of her melted skin stretched from her waist to her neck, over her right shoulder. It drizzled down past her right shoulder blade and disappeared into her shorts.
She held out her right arm. "You can touch it."
It felt smooth and wondrous. It felt foreign. Her shoulder was a silken, alien substance.
"Wow," I breathed. I looked back at her eyes. "What happened?"
Sunlight flickered on our faces as the wind rustled through the lilacs and Shayla pulled her shirt back on.
"Well, when I was four, I pulled a pot of hot water off the stove. My mom turned her back for just a sec. I was sick a real long time."
And that was it. No dramatic re-enactment, no emotion, no inflection of any kind.
We never spoke of it again. I never asked any more questions, and so I received no more answers. But they are always here, those scars. Under her shirt and under the lilacs as the sun flickers softly in the shadow.