Intersections – The Blue from Bruises
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I climbed into the bathtub and as I sank into the water, I noticed a large bruise on my thigh. It was bigger than my hand. The outer edge was blue, then ringed with purple. The inner circle of the bruise was a strange hue of green and in the center was an almost imperceptible dot. Yellow. It was the largest bruise I’d ever had in my life.
We were in my mother’s house. I like her enormous bathtub. I’ve birthed and breastfed so many babies that I’ve forgotten the meaning of privacy, so I called out to my mom and my husband to come see the bruise.
“What happened?” they asked. “Where’d you get that?”
I used a washcloth over my breasts to feign modesty. My kids ran in and out of the bathroom. I looked at the bruise. I didn’t know how I got it. I didn’t know how long it had been on my thigh. It looked aged, like an old bruise. It was not tender to the touch, but it must have been once. Days before? A week ago? I really didn’t know.
“But doesn’t it look weird?” I asked in return. I’m morbid. Every blemish or bump or bruise is a precursor to dying. I wanted them to confirm the dramatic nature of my bruise. They agreed it was bad, but they were more concerned that I didn’t know where it came from.
That’s life. Sometimes we get hurt and don’t notice until later.
By the time my son was nine months old, he’d broken three pairs of my glasses on my face while I was wearing them. He was a sweet baby who liked to head-butt. And it wasn’t just him. The girls had boney elbows that found their way into my eye sockets. The cat sleeps in spots where I will trip over her at 3 o’clock in the morning.
I also do my part. I forget to close the dishwasher and drawers. I walk into tables and dressers. I’ve fallen down the stairs in my house three times. Each time I was pregnant. I’ve fallen down the steps in my mom’s house. I’ve fallen down the steps at my sister’s house, scraping the skin off forearms and legs. I have bumped and bruised every part of my body from shin to temple.
I watched the blue bruise as I sat in the bath. I thought about sadness. Why is it called blue, my favorite color? Is sadness a bruise and depression a scar?
I added Epsom salt and vinegar to the bathwater. I added boiling water to increase the heat. I watched the bruise. My fingers became water-wrinkled, and the water became cloudy with dirt. A bath is revealing. The shower hides lots of things. Running water conceals the broken places on our body. Skin we need to shed, sheds invisibly. In the shower, we forget how quickly water loses heat.
Epsom salt and vinegar pull toxins from your body. They pulled the blue from my bruise. I’d never seen anything like it before. The mark dissipated as I soaked. I’m used to having scars. A bruise is different. Unlike a scar, a bruise will eventually disappear completely. Now I’m careful where I walk and how I approach stairs. I don’t heal as easily as I used to.
“Everyone is so happy,” someone said to me. “I look at my friends and their photos and everyone is so happy.”
“Do you really believe that?” I asked. I don’t.
“You are,” the person said, and in the same breath, “You reveal so much.”
They should see me in the bathtub.
I don’t suffer from social media envy. If we are a little happy, people think we are always happy. There are people who don’t want us to be happy. The same ones don’t want us to be sad. I am not supposed to be naked. Or bruised. Or dirty. If I am these things, then I should hide it from my family and friends. I don’t. I leave the door open.
A friend of mine suffered from post-partum depression and now she is pregnant with her second child. She posted a picture of her face to raise awareness and the caption read, “So much hides behind a smile.”
I’ve been thinking about being blue. I’ve been wondering about the things that can pull the blue out of a bruise.
I have several friends who’ve lost a loved one to suicide this year. They will tell you that everyone is not happy. Not always. We never take pictures when we are sad. Or when we are thinking. Or when we are mad. We should. It would be like exposing that blue bruise.
I never think a smiling picture is the whole truth. People are happy in moments. You can’t see the bruises. The blue. The sadness. There is nothing wrong with being injured and imperfect, as long as we believe there is enough time to heal.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.