My assignment this week is to write about the parts of me that I like. Today is not that ideal day for this task; nor was yesterday or the day before that. For weeks my flaws graffiti the walls of my thoughts. Every weakness and failing highlighted in neon. I could write an encyclopedia of failures, from the mundane to the spectacular. But I am to write about attributes I like…about…me.
At my core, a hard nub of self-doubt resides in a warm little pool of humor. Without the humor, I would at best be Eeyore, and at worst be the human black hole sucking joy out of every moment of my life. Thank the gods (you should say, right now, in your most devout way) for that little bit of laughter. It has been my shield and my comfort for all my adult life. I don’t overstate when I say that without my deflecting wit, I would not have been able to navigate the overwhelming chasm between my introversion and the grand society of The Others. In that carbon blot of self-doubt, I have always known that I know nothing, that I have no grace, that I cannot compare, that I will never catch up to where The Others started, that I am no more special than a grain of sand, that I have nothing to say. And then, while not nullifying that knowledge, my humor allows that a person who knows nothing, and yet embraces that as true, in fact has possession of some quantity of information. And then I smile, knowing that while graceless I may be, the argument was perhaps a little elegant. And then I self-efface my ignorance, while pointing out that The Others might in truth have missed something that only a fool might see.
There. I do treasure my shield and use it daily.
And then there are the two long scars on my knees. The right one runs vertically to the right of center. The left one is more equidistant, but less vertical. One puckers a little. The other is finer, and its lower inches are barely visible. I adore them both. My fingers often massage them when I’m thinking hard about something. It is a motion that evolved over the years of the increasing pain, when the cartilage stripped away and each femur ground into the top the tibias, leaving the living bone pocked and degraded. These were the years my knees gave out climbing into the bleachers, and I fell onto strangers, the years when I could not move from my seat at a Broadway show until the joint snapped back into working order. And these were the years my gait changed into equal parts sideways motion combined with forward motion. My duck years.
Knee replacement surgery is violent. The surgeon cut my bones off and fitted joints of titanium and plastic over the truncated ends. Everything else involved – muscle, nerve, blood vessels, skin – was thoroughly man-handled in the two operations, which each lasted only a few minutes. Two small areas of numbness remain to this day, each on the outer sides of the joints, where the nerves never quite recovered. My fingers rub those areas too, without conscious thought, as if the digits are confused by these lost places within my body, and entertain hope that prodding will make everything right again. Nerves don’t work that way.
So there are two impressive scars on my fat knees. I wasn’t going to start wearing short skirts anyways, so my vanity is not ruffled. Instead, I climb stairs fluidly, I merge into the concert crowds without hesitation, and I can walk from Boston’s Commons all the way to Chinatown for noodles. And only a shadow of my old companion, the chronic pain of the joints grinding away, stays in my memory, and stirs my fingers to rub, rub, rub the pale white lines.