| Cozey Feature |

The Scars We Bear

I get through it, trying not to pay attention to the voices in my head telling me how stupid I am for making such a ridiculous mistake

There’s the tinny sound of the broken school bell, a flushed Mrs. Lieberman leaves the classroom under a pile of papers, and finally, school’s out. Yaffa and I stroll down Brent Street, hair softly waving in the breeze, a beam of sunshine breaking through the clouds like an unexpected gift. My bag is light, finals are over, and studying’s done, after two months of all-nighters and crammed days where vacation felt a million miles away. “Now,” I say dramatically to Yaffa, “It’s time to partyyy!” We pick up the delicious scent of pizza and fries, and, following our noses, we find food.

Two iced coffees and a box of chili fries later, we’re back on the street again, wending our way toward the bus stop, the pavement congested with school kids. It’s then, when we’re deeply involved in our conversation about the dress I’ll be wearing to Nachi’s bar mitzvah, that I walk into the road and see a gray BMW far too close to my face. I hear Yaffa’s panicked scream. There’s a long blast of a horn as I’m thrown into the air, and the world goes black.


I was unconscious for a while, my mother tells me, as I blink at the bright lights in the emergency room and reach toward my head which is throbbing rhythmically. “Don’t touch,” Mom tells me gently, holding my hands, “You’ve been given strong painkillers, and they’re going to stitch you up, but it’s quite a cut you’ve given yourself there, Dassa.” I groan. Stitches, I think, just before Nachi’s bar mitzvah, for crying out loud. And despite the fact that I know it could have been much worse, I feel incredibly sorry for myself.


It’s only later, when I look at the hospital bathroom mirror, that I realize how sorry I really am. In the dazzling fluorescence, the gash on my head is so horrendously prominent that it looks like I’ve used a permanent marker, and the stitches are raised, thick, ugly. You’re pathetic, a voice in my head says, you should have looked before you crossed the road. I sigh, then emerge from the bathroom and back to my bed.

“You’ll need to go to the walk-in clinic in two to three days for them to check how you are,” Dr. Rainer says, some hours later, peering over his black-rimmed spectacles at my miserable face. “We’re not worried about a concussion, because Hadassah seems fine, and the cut’s fairly shallow, but they may need to redo or change the stitches, depending on how the healing is going.” Mom nods with a creased brow, adds the recommended date for the check-up in her phone, and sighs as she finds her keys. Guilt clenches in my stomach — she’s got enough to deal with, without this, too. I hang my scarred head, and wince as the pain returns, full force. I’m going to need more painkillers, stat.


The next two weeks are a roller-coaster of physical pain and inner turmoil, as we race to the finish line for the bar mitzvah. Everyone’s outfitted, and the bar mitzvah boy’s hat is safely stored away, his full fury emerging when the baby touches the bottom of his pants leg as it pops out of the dry-cleaning bag. He wants it all to be perfect, I muse, and I’m going to ruin it.

“The scar will fade,” the doctor reassures us at our next hospital visit. “Hadassah was very lucky, considering the proximity to the car and the speed it was likely going.” My fists feel clammy, the BMW looms in my mind. “Baruch Hashem,” I murmur, but I don’t really feel it.

The physical pain is still strong at moments, and day-to-day tasks feel harder. Even with pain meds, I still have times where I suddenly feel a stab, or where a moan escapes before I can stop it. My family and friends are sympathetic, helping me out and cheering me on. But meanwhile, there’s a voice in my head saying, If you would only have looked, none of this would have happened. Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seems to make the throbbing worse.


The bar mitzvah Shabbos dawns blue and crisp. We hurry to shul, Mom trying not to trip in her fancy new heels, Sarala tossing her freshly blown curls. I hold my breath as Nachi leins and beams at everyone proudly as he gets through with hardly any mistakes — even on the words I knew he found difficult. And then it’s time for the kiddush, and I cringe as everyone who wishes me mazel tov tries not to stare at my unsightly scar healing. Still, I get through it, trying not to pay attention to the voices in my head telling me how stupid I am for making such a ridiculous mistake. Lunch for the relatives is pretty fun, and Dad gives a great speech that gets everyone laughing. I start to relax.

The seudah on Monday, though, is another matter. All my out-of-town family arrive, and one after the other, they stare at my scar, question marks in their eyes. Their kids, embarrassingly, have no filter at all and keep asking me what happened. Each time I explain, I feel worse and worse. What a loser, I think. Then we have photos, hundreds of them, and the photographer loudly tells Mom that she “shouldn’t worry, I’ll photoshop the gash on her head,” and I’m blinking back tears until the evening is over. And even though everyone else is on a high from the food and the speeches and the gifts, I collapse on my bed and sob.

It’s too much, I tell Hashem, heal me, heal the scar I have, take it away so that I don’t have to see it, don’t have to remember the stupid mistake I made. My pillow gets damp, then soaked, and I cry and cry. Heal me, please, heal me, I say, and a part of me asks Him to heal my heart, too. Slowly, slowly, the tension I’ve been holding these past few weeks begins to melt away. And as it does, something else creeps into my mind…


I go to sleep that night pensive, and I wake up thoughtful, questioning, wondering. Because, I think, as I open my curtains to a new day, if I’m davening to Hashem to heal me, how have I forgotten that He wanted this to happen in the first place? I stare thoughtfully at my scar while brushing my teeth. There’s something in that thought that feels so right. I notice there’s a brightness in my face again, and a looseness in my back as I get dressed, eat breakfast, prepare lunch. I’ve been blaming it all on me, I think, but, maybe, in all the noise, I forgot that it’s all from Him?

Perhaps this is a scar I don’t have to bear alone…


When I run the idea past Dad later, first he looks at me uncomprehendingly, then beams when he realizes how much I’ve grown up. “Yes, exactly! You got it!” He reminds me of the importance of hishtadlus, but also, of how we know, once things have happened, that they were clearly Hashem’s Will. I breathe, hug Dad, and dance off, leaving him with a bemused smile on his face. I think I made more than one of us happy today.


Later, the photographer delivers the bar mitzvah prints and, with a regretful smile, says he couldn’t totally remove the scar from the pictures. For a moment I start to segue into self-blame and judgment, but then I dig deep inside and tell myself it was meant to be. Because it clearly was. And inside, I know it’s true.

Oh, and the photos? They aren’t all that bad, after all…


(Originally featured in Cozey, Issue 988)

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