Scar Tissue is a short essay I wrote about when I had a Cranioplasty in 2002
Looking in the mirror it is with some effort that I recognise you. The shaved head with the grotesque notch cleaved out of it; a flat, horizontal shelf indented into your skull for two inches and vertical for two inches - just as though a quarter segment has been chopped out of an orange. We shall have to get to know each other again.
This is the first time I’ve seen you bald and I can’t avert my eyes. I feel awkward for staring - one shouldn’t stare. It is with the unwholesome fascination with which one looks upon a ‘cripple’ (just glad that it isn’t you), something I know a lot about, that I now stare at you.
That huge scar makes excessive demands upon my mind, coerces it to take a trip back in time… all the way back to Tasmania…The Totem Pole. Like an indelible, long abiding stamp of misadventure that ditch in my skull serves the past and I am drenched in memories.
It aids the recollection my being on the same Neuro-surgical ward in the Royal Hobart Hospital that I was brought to on a trolley five years ago… The very same grey view out of the ward window, the same sterile white walls (and I assume the same sterile disinfectant smell though since my accident I am bereft of that function), the same sounds; alarms, screams of head injured patients and footfalls of nurses. Drip stand - shower chair - bath hoist - commode - blood pressure sleeve - pulse and temperature. And there, still, Moi, the same nurse whom I hallucinated was trying to kill me the last time I was here. Now it’s only good to see her.
To stare into your eyes is to look into the past, to that Friday the 13th… The tyrolean, the long abseil down The Pole, the water up to my waist, shouting up to Celia that you will have to jumar back up the rope, swinging in a pendulum, the whistling of the boulder through the air… and then… the black silence.
Gawping at that yawn in your skull makes you reconsider what you once were; a climber through and through. It forces you to evaluate your life over these past years - you don’t even recognise that bloke with the paunch and bald head (who’s staring at who here?).
But although your life with certain disability is hard you can’t help smiling at me, with pride etched in your crows feet, and thinking, “You really know how to go for it don’t you.”
As you study me, waiting for them to take you down to the theatre (to get a plate in your skull), I ponder what your being means to you now. You have traversed mountain ranges with a dodgy leg, slept on the ground and scrambled up rocks with one useable arm. Although you are using your body again, the reflections of your past life as an climber, full of agility, keep appearing, all grainy, at the most inopportune moments.
You used to say that the accident was the best thing that ever happened to you for it put you on a different life course; a one-eighty shift from the predictable existence of a professional climber. But now you realise this was you in denial. Although it gave you a beautiful wife and an imminent baby, after five years, you are more realistic. Nobody would wish what you went through upon themselves.
Whatever was to be was to be.
Then I hear a familiar male voice off to my left, “Paul it’s time to get on the trolley mate.”