My bruises, dark against pale skin, are mainly hidden, inaccessible, unseen – buried. I do not flaunt them, or speak much of their origin – though small and dramatic ones on epidermal surfaces, and open to all, can be viewed.
The one shown above, a large area of mottled wound, a below-the-skin haemorrhage tracing the rainbow in search of healing, occurred when I banged, hard, into the wheelbarrow when mowing the lawn.
In truth, I bruise very easily, always have, my white skin showing every mark clearly.
But what of the bruising within? What of those beautifully macabre inches of hurt flesh which, silent and hidden within pericardium or peritoneal sac or in the crevices of those parts of me which once made love? What of the bruising that was not battered in with knocks against bathtub or backs of chairs or clumsy meetings with hard surfaces? What of the deep bruises inflicted by word and gesture, neglect and loneliness and cruelty?
I am not, in the traditional sense,a battered and bruised woman. I am lucky. And yet, in some respects, I am brutalised and bruised by more subtle surfaces which have caught me unawares. A psychic kicking may not touch flesh, but it still leaves an area of perceptible damage.
The bruise on the back of my right leg tells many stories. One of the most profound and, in many ways, humbling, is the one about pain and a refusal to delve deeply to find its source. This saga, a lesson for me, is such an apt metaphor for my life generally that I could weep.
For three days I felt the pain radiating from that oft-damp crook behind the knee’s bony joint and worried at it, with hand and mind, unwilling to look, scared to confront, its mystery deepening the range of dire possibilities.
Yesterday, I took the small bathroom mirror – and angled it until I could see what was going on: The colourful battleground told its own story, for, as soon as I saw, I recalled the actual crunch of soft flesh into hard metal.
At times, I come away bruised from encounters with other people, though the pain takes the form of clogged throat, or panic, or ringing in ears, or urge to sob openly. Too often, I hug that pain to me, without searching for its inception. Too often, such lonely denial simply makes the bruise more painful and scary and huge. Too often I adopt the englamouring effect of loud and cheerful and impenetrable to hide the inner effects of psychic blows dealt and blood spilt.
I bruise easily. On my fair skin, it shows darkly. Why, then, do I pretend that other, inner hurts can be concealed? Or, indeed, that it is good for me, and others, when they remain locked away in the warm and damp crook behind metaphorical knee joint?
Why do I fight so hard to persuade others that bruising does not affect me – when my own skin shows that lie up so clearly?
And why is it that those who choose to batter with psychic fists and boots, to symbolically pull hair and scrape claws against frail skin, are often so reluctant to own up to their bruising and devastating attacks?
But the act of burying a body does not, cannot, inter the knowledge of our own mortality, nor can that tidying away brush the dirt of our grief out of sight.
We bury our bruises for a variety of reasons: Shame, fear, denial, not wanting to appear weak and vulnerable – and perhaps, above all, not wishing to confront the fact that pain, like death, is both universal and unavoidable.