Scars for the Angel

Photo Credit: Rachel Bartlett

Scars for the Angel

This author guy once wrote, “I don’t want to die without any scars.” Always seemed like a good idea to me. After all, shouldn’t a body bear the visible marks of a life of experiences? Only problem is, I’ve never gotten a scar in my life.

You know how everyone has, like, a date that really sticks out for him or her because of something momentous? September 18. That’s my momentous date. Want to know why? First time I saw her. First time I got a scar.

The lake is nice on a weekday in September. The kids are back in school, but it’s still hot out. That’s probably why my buddy Rick asks me to come out on his boat with him and a few other people.

Rick and I met in group counseling back in high school. Good guy that Rick.

My guess is that alcohol is a contributing factor for both drivers as both boats veer toward each other and no one has the sense to turn away. An unknowing game of chicken. Next thing we’re strewn all over the boat floor and each other, some woman screaming in my ear that she thinks she broke her arm. She didn’t.

A black-haired angel in a blue swimsuit climbs on board. Says she’s a doctor. An ER doctor. Hard core. Poor thing. Trying to enjoy a day off from a hectic job and we ruin it for her. She can’t really just turn away and pretend she didn’t see the wreck, though.

“I’m fine,” I tell her when it’s my turn for her scrutiny.

“Dude, your arm’s bleeding,” she points out.

Somehow I missed the fact that a broken edge of a beer bottle cut a six-inch gash down my right arm. My first upcoming scar. Scar number one.

Okay, now the gash starts burning like—

“I’ll sanitize it,” she says as she pulls something out of first aid kit, “and then wrap it. It’ll hold until you can get stitches.”

I can barely breathe as she leans in close. She smells like sunscreen and life itself. Something about pain registers in the back of my mind as she cleans away the blood.

Then, she’s gone. Next patient. Next drunken idiot.

Have you ever seen eyes the color of dark roast coffee with just the smallest drop of creamer poured in? If you had, you’d never be able to get them off your mind. Ever.

In my city, there are around thirty hospitals. That’s just in the limits. Beyond that, in the suburbs, well, it’s a lot. Houston is big.

You can’t walk into an ER and start asking about female doctors that work there. I tried that. People start to get suspicious. Of course, that might have something to do with me. I’m told I make people feel uneasy. My own mother told me that one time.

A burn from a hot iron gives me scar number two and admittance to the ER at Houston Methodist Hospital. A woman doctor, but not one with a perfect face and body, black hair, and coffee with creamer eyes.

Her eyes narrow in on mine, then the burn.

“Odd place for an iron to burn,” she says as she pokes around my right leg just above the knee. “Seen plenty on hands, some on arms. The leg?”

I shrug as I try to peer behind her at the people passing by outside the door.

“I think my friend works here,” I say. “She’s a doctor.”

“Really?” The woman straightens, some of the suspicion falling away from her to be replaced with curiosity. “What’s her name?”

“Black hair. Brown eyes.”

The suspicion returns as she says, “I asked for a name.”

“Don’t remember.” I shrug again.

With barely another word to me, she finishes up her ministrations of the burn and sends me out the door. When I ask for strong painkillers, she says over-the-counter Tylenol will be just fine.

“This is from a tuna can?” the doctor at Memorial Heights Emergency Center asks as he looks at the deep cut across my left palm.

“Yep.” I almost kick him as my legs swing back and forth over the table. I remind myself to calm down as I still the action.

With a shake of his head, he begins to work on the injury, prepping the area for the four stitches he says he’ll have to put in.

“I always thought it’d be cool to be an ER doctor,” I say. Him being a fellow guy, I figure this conversation will go easier than the one at Houston Methodist. “But I heard once that there’s not much game to hunt in the profession. Not hot game anyway.”

The guy allows a smile as he works and says, “I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. But, yeah, this particular hospital is a little lacking right now.”

“No one stands out?” I may have asked that a little too eagerly.

The doctor notices. Shooting a questioning look at me, he tentatively says, “No, not really.”

I leave the hospital with the beginning of scar number two and bereft of painkillers. I’ve really been striking out.

Scars three through eight yield the same results as the first two. For number five, there’s also the slight scare of almost having the police called on me. Apparently the knife wound looks a lot like someone stabbed me. Does it really count if you do it yourself, though?

Scar number nine is the most promising of all. The doctor is a little off. I wonder if this is how people see me as I take in the shifty eyes and fidgety movements. I don’t think he’s so bad, though. I feel a lot more comfortable with him than any of the other doctors I’ve seen.

“Oh yeah, there’s this hot little number that comes in around four in the morning. She acts all high and mighty, like she’s the best doctor here. I know she’s got a thing for me, though. I’ll knock her off her high horse one of these days.”

The seedy smile lets me know he’s imagining just what that’ll look like. This guy is cool. He knows what he wants. I get that. But if he’s talking about my coffee-eyed angel, I’ll kill him.

“Does she have black hair?” I ask. If he says yes, I’ll grab that syringe and jab it through his throat.

“Nah, blonde. That’s how I like ‘em.” I listen to him go on about how he ‘likes ‘em’ until he’s finished with the stitches. I walk out of the hospital with a prescription for the good stuff.

By the time I’ve got fifteen scars, I’m starting to get disheartened. Maybe I was at the right hospital and missed her. Maybe she moved. So many depressing possibilities.

Heading into the gas station up the corner from my apartment, I think over how to justify my next hospital visit. There’s a saw I could borrow from my neighbor. A nail gun at the construction site down the road. My apartment is only two stories up. A good jump could do some damage without being too bad.

A bag of chips. Two-liter of soda. A special brown paper-wrapped beauty I’ll save for later when I’m ready to try for scar number sixteen.

I’m laying cash down on the counter when the door chimes behind me. The cashier goes still, his eyes moving to follow the newcomer. Glancing up at the mirror on the back wall, I see the black hoody and the red bandanna covering all but deep-sunken blue eyes. The gun is held gangster style, the voice deep as it says, “All the cash. In a bag. Now!”

I’ve never really seen myself as a lucky guy. Not unlucky. Average luck I guess. Right now, though, it feels as if the universe is smiling toward me. And I smile right back as I turn toward the robber.

“What are you smiling at?” the masked man demands, pointing that sideways gun my way.

I lunge. A symphony of shot fills the store.

When I can manage to open my eyes, I’m moving. My whole body. It’s not me moving, though, because I’m on my back. Someone’s doing it for me. Suddenly, voices. A lot of them. Did someone pour liquid over me? I feel all of this liquid gushing over my abdomen. Warm, painful liquid. Was that what was causing all the pain? The liquid?

“He’s crashing!”

Who was crashing? Why was it so hard to breathe? I want to ask someone. I try to look around. Eyes right. Eyes left. And then, perfect stillness and peace. Because it’s her. Because she’s next to me. My angel, moving right along with me, quickly shouting out orders, placing hands on me. Those wonderful, beautiful hands.

Right then, her coffee eyes meet mine and hold on to me. So much warmth there. I inch my hand up until I can grasp onto hers. She smiles down at me, but it’s a sad smile. I’ll kill whoever made her so sad. I’ll kill them once someone helps me get this liquid off and pulls me up. I’m so sleepy, though. Maybe I can do the killing after I get some sleep.

I grasp her hand as tight as I can so she won’t leave while I’m sleeping.

“So brave, so, so brave,” I hear her voice through the descending dark. “You’re a hero,” she says close to my ear. “A true hero. You’ll always be remembered as a hero.”

I can’t smile because it’s too hard, but I feel it inside of me, filling me up. My angel. Calling me a hero. She must know how hard I’ve worked to find her. She called me a hero. The scars are all worth it. I didn’t want to die without scars anyway. Now, whenever my death comes, and I’m sure it’s still very far away, I won’t have any regrets. Scars for the angel, I say in my head. Scars for the angel. Die with scars. Die with scars. Die—

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