The first sits under your chin like an upside down umbrella or sardonic smiley face, almost translucent and visible only to those who might find themselves above or below you, most likely in bed. At some point they might ask, “How did you get that?” to which you may respond “Get what?” since it’s been so long and then you will remember. Precocious in that sixth grade kind of way you might snicker, “Some young punk who wanted to kiss me instead threw a rock at me.” And it’s true in that violent sort of boys who like you but know not how to tell you because very much like you they are raised in an absent-of-emotionally-present parents kind of home and spend their days at the latchkey park smelling of sulfur tipped and discarded matches and summer body odor and chlorine streaked lemon colored hair dos waiting for tough girls in sleeveless tops to come flouncing down on their rung of the metal caterpillar swing. And when you do, come flouncing down on their rung of the metal caterpillar swing, it’s way too close for comfort and in whisky deep tones of their fathers, with cheeks suddenly blooming with salmon colored blushes, the only way they know to hide the embarrassment rising in their blue jeans is to pick up a rock and chuck it right at you, sending you running through the dusty gravel road towards home for butterfly bandages and spankings.
The second haughtily adorns your right kneecap like a miniature map of the United States, raised and knobby with a dull silver shine like the inside of a mother-of-pearl shell. Hardly noticed at all anymore, except in the shower when you will slightly raise your hand to trace the razor over it carefully when shaving so as not to knick its already grotesque demeanor; it’s reminder of your rebelliousness when you were eleven years old and angry. A reminder of the night you finally got so tired of waiting for your mother to come home which would inevitably happen hours later as she stumbled in wine soaked, threw a purse on the table that spilled a pack of cigs, that you would then steal, sneak out the window with and head through the desert in the dark not knowing where you were really going in that brash and exhilarating way of the young. Only you would then realize you had nowhere to go and that most of your friends were safe in bed after normal slabs of meatloaf at the dinner table, homework done, tucked in tight and you would get so angry that while running through the wild blocks of tumbleweed and cacti around your home, you would slam downwards deep into a concrete ditch knee first and shatter your bone. Once back home, you would sleep all night with your leg outside your bedcovers, blood seeping down your calf in long ruby rivulets, wanting it to be the first thing your mother saw in the morning when she opened your door to wake you.
The third still smarts as it was carved in a manic rush, tears pouring down your cheeks in the early morning sunshine, by a random piece of shattered beer bottle glass found in the sand abutting the curb of your junior high bus stop as your throat clogged with the shame, rage and loneliness of feeling perpetually misunderstood. The sketchy lined initials of the first boy you loved, the one who made you laugh like mad in a world you thought could never be funny – the one you scratched in thin, scrawny letters into the side of your right ankle as a constant reminder that there could be bright orange joy even in despairing pockets of gloom.
You’re still trying to hide the fourth one just like you did in high school when your stepfather pulled your left hand from underneath your napkin that was beginning to soak through with tiny beads of blood, looked at the “A” you had carved with one of your mother’s old sewing needles and said, “What does that stand for? Asshole?” To which you replied, “No, anarchy,” and went to bed seething over the hypocrisy in your household.
And then the hypocrisy of the world; when that too became evident you sliced the fifth one with a razor blade across the fat middle vein in your right wrist on your bed on a rainy day, looking out the window and waiting for God. But no God came, only a deep sleep in which you dreamt you were finally a part of the universe, floating like a balloon in the black sky filled with stars where peace finally coated you like a velvet duvet. And in those stars you glimpsed a curious constellation shaped like a mountaintop, only squished and sideways and you realized its connecting points represented your scars and if you connected the dots you had a map of your body’s pain. Inside this constellation you saw your spirit and it was effervescent, non-permeable and beating like a galactic heart and you knew then that no one could ever take that away. Nothing, yet everything, changed that day.
Kimberly Nichols, Constellation
American, b. 1973, playing from Los Angeles, CA, USA
Kimberly Nichols is a conceptual artist, writer and social anthropologist exploring issues of the individual’s contemporary universal identity through spirituality, myth, psychology, geography, social anthropology and culture to inform work that expresses myriad perspectives on humanity and our inherent, existential connections.