I should have known that the scab on my chest beside my left nipple was more than just a scab. I couldn’t remember ever cutting or scratching myself.
I should have known something was off when I saw a small green hair sprouting from it. And I should have become worried when that green hair grew two distinct leaves that were the shape of the maple trees of my youth.
I should have, but I didn’t.
I didn’t because I don’t really like my body all that much, so I don’t really pay attention to it. I even shower with my t-shirt and boxers on, and I dress in my windowless bathroom with the lights off.
I’m not sure how I grew to despise my body so much. Blaming my thrice-broken nose seems like a cop out.
Yes, I was a scrawny kid who got beat up regularly in the boy’s locker room during those brutal junior high years. Mostly because I was the smallest boy. Sometimes because I was staring at the other boy’s pricks, especially the uncut ones that looked so funny.
Besides, I went to therapy all through high school. The school counselor mandated it after I broke one of the bully’s tailbone. Somehow, the bullies didn’t get mandated therapy. Only me.
“That’s just typical junior high behavior,” is what the counselor said. “I’m worried about your anger issues.”
But like I said, I don’t think that is why I hate my body so much. I had therapy. I also don’t think it stems from my college years, during which I came out.
There was an incident at the public university I frequented. I frequented it because my Catholic college wasn’t all that supportive. In fact, I was sat down by my academic advisor there and told my being out is “causing a disturbance.”
The incident happened in a bathroom at the public university. A burly man who looked an awful lot like one of the priests at my Catholic college was lingering at the urinal. I was lingering too, and I happened to linger a little too long on his erect penis. He grabbed me and threw me into the toilet stall. He kept whispering “faggot” as he tore off my pants.
The next day, my academic advisor called me and said, “I don’t think that you and this college are a match. We are requesting that you do not enroll here next semester.”
Again, I went to therapy. This time, Christian counseling. There was a lot of talking about attractions and bodies and sins. Mostly, those conversations were brought up by the counselor. In fact, I don’t think I have ever talked so much about the male body before or after those sessions.
But all that personal history doesn’t really matter. I mean, I just don’t like my body and I have learned how to cope with that reality: I don’t own any mirrors; I sleep fully clothed; I don’t have sex.
And at least I am somewhat content with this life. Or at least I am not as depressed as I used to be.
But … I am avoiding the fact that something sprouted from my chest, from a scab I do not remember getting.
I do remember a dream, though, that I had on the night of the summer solstice.
I was in a forest, and it was midnight. The forest grew so thick I could not see the sky. I was naked (yes, it was one of those dreams), and I was urgently searching for my clothes. I dug holes in the earth with my bare hands, thinking I had buried them. I tore open trees believing that my clothes were hidden inside their trunks. I could not find my clothes, and in my panic, I tripped on the root of a maple tree, one that reminded me of the tree in the front yard of my childhood home.
I fell for what seemed like years, and I never touched the ground. As I fell, I prayed not to God or to the heavens but to that childhood maple tree. I prayed I would finally find peace. Not the peace of world peace. Nor the peace of peace of mind. But the peace that comes from knowing who you are. The peace that comes from both acceptance and resignation.
The maple tree caught me, and in doing so its branches scratched my chest. (Or so I think.)
I woke, bed wet from both perspiration and the release of fear. I went to my windowless bathroom to shower, kept the lights off, and it was only when I tried to take off my sopping t-shirt and boxers that I realized I was naked. It being pitch black, I could not see that the maple tree had left a physical mark.
It has been three weeks since my dream, and the scab and seedling still grow. I finally acknowledged it when the twig broke through my t-shirt and the scab covered my entire chest.
But scab is not the correct word. It is more like bark, and the twig is turning into a branch.
It has been five weeks since my dream, and I no longer wear any clothes.
I also no longer leave my front yard. I cherish the feeling of sun and rain upon my leaves, of earth between my roots, of bugs burrowing in my bole, of birds raising their families in my boughs.
Today, the house is no more. A child is making memories under my glorious canopy, collecting fallen twigs, bundling them together, and binding the bundle with twine.
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