Thursday, February 27, 2020

Shards of Words

Waves crashed in the background as the kids and I sat down for a scrumptious barbeque. We chatted about our Made-Up Holiday and our bonfire plan. 
All laughed in unison, “AND NO TRASH!" 
Then came the usual question, “Did you get that scar here? On this beach?” 
I smiled.
I was 20.  Freshly graduated, boxes were piled in an apartment. The new job started Monday. My first night of adult independence. My date and his friends picked me up, stopped at a store to buy libations, then off we went to the beach. They encouraged me to pick something.
“We’ll buy it. You’ll be fine! In a month you’ll be 21. It won’t matter!”
I protested, but their arguments seemed logical. I had followed the rules up to this point.
What havoc would one bottle unleash? I picked a fruity Bartles and James wine cooler. 
The Jaunty Jeep parked near the beach bonfire area. We walked until a recently abandoned one was discovered. The guys gathered trash to quickly pile it on the faintly glowing embers. The guys blew full lungs of air on the smoking pile, suddenly flames roared to life. We crackled with excitement about the summer plans and savored those flavors of adulthood.
Near the fire’s edge, an rim of red peeled a paper bag. There lay a capped beer bottle. 
I queried, “Guys, should we take that bottle out of the fire?”
Date said, “Na… it’s only coals. The fire isn’t hot enough to do anything. It’s fine.”
 His logic seemed wise. Girls don’t play with fire, I thought. Boys do. He probably knows better.
The ocean breeze grew cold. Date gave me his ski jacket and took the thin windbreaker I was wearing. Our conversation lulled like the coals. Friend Guy started to kick the capped bottle around the embers.
The glass cracked a bit and foam eased out.
Jeep Driver said, “We should move it. That doesn’t look right.”
Easy conversation continued about our futures, crazy college stories, and again our voices grew quiet.  
Embers nearly cold now, Friend Guy gingerly pulled the bottle into the center with his foot.
Then rolled it around. 
Not too much. 
to watch the beer foam from the cracks in the glass. They commented on how cool it was to watch the foam ease out of the fissures. The cool science of pressure relief continued. I tuned them out and listened to the waves wash the shoreline. 
I saw them jump back and brush their chests. They were all over six feet tall, so I was confused. Why didn’t I feel anything in my chest? 
Then I realized my face was their chest height.
I put my hand to my left jaw.
I didn’t feel anything.
But I felt a knot in my stomach. 
“Um…. Guys… I think I’m bleeding?”
With eyes wide, they raced over. I lifted my chin. 
Date said, “Don’t bleed on my jacket!”
"Oh! I’m sorry.”  I rushed to take it off trying not to get anything on it. “Here.”
I didn’t feel like I was bleeding. But... it was his jacket I was borrowing, it kinda made sense.
I shivered a little, “Um… what can I bleed on?” 
He handed me the windbreaker, his tone softened, “Here, you can use this.”
Jeep Driver said, “We should go.”
“I don’t have any insurance. When I moved out my Parentals told me so. If we go to a hospital, they’ll know I’ve been drinking and arrest me. I can’t afford to pay for the hospital. My job doesn’t start until Monday.” I panicked. 
Someone said, “It will be ok. You have to go to the hospital.”
We piled in.
The Jittery Jeep’s racing engine was the only sound through those dark curvy roads. Loud thoughts lectured me about the mess I was in. This was God’s judgment on me for drinking. Now the Parentals would know. What would they do? What would they say? I was terrified.
Well...maybe now he will listen to me. Maybe my opinion will mean something. This scar on my face will show him that I know what I’m talking about. Maybe it will be worth it. It could be a blessing in disguise.
At the ER and in the care of nurses and doctors, my face was draped. A gentle nurse held my hand and talked to me because I couldn’t see. A compassionate doctor numbed my jaw and gave me 10 stitches.
My retelling of the scar story was interrupted.
“Mom! How could you think like that?” We all laugh at that young, gullible, innocent girl. 
Now, I can laugh at myself about it all.
I know a Loving Higher Power would not throw a glowing hot glass shard at my face, narrowly missing my jugular vein simply to punish me for drinking a wine cooler a month before my 21st birthday. Of course, an action like that would never be a blessing. 
 My part in this whole tragedy of errors is the bottle was an issue for me. 
I should have taken it out.
I didn’t feel safe with a full, capped, carbonated glass bottle sitting in embers. I didn’t believe in the value of my own words. I held no value in my own opinion. This scar on my face reminds me that I knew what I was talking about. I didn’t see my own worth. I’ve learned the importance of my words. If I’m going to speak, it needs to mean something to me. I practice confidence in my voice.  If I’m not being heard, I stop arguing, evaluate the topic for either a redirect or to simply drop it.
That scar on my face is a gift. It gives character to every word I’ve spoken since.

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