Elissa Cahn

Scar Story


It’s Labor Day and I’m walking behind my parents at the water park. Teenagers are shooting down the slide and hanging from monkey bars above the water. Little kids bob in inner tubes closer to shore. Barbecue smoke hangs in the air. To my right, a family has picked up and left without throwing away their trash. A grill’s ash catcher has been left in the sand. The ashes look soft and warm like oatmeal and I want to feel them against my skin. I stick my wrist into the hot ashes.

It doesn’t hurt, but the skin bubbles angry red. I run to show my parents what happened. Mom scoops me up and runs me to the First-Aid station. I think we’re on a bus but really it’s an ambulance. Mom hands me an orange Popsicle. I throw it on the floor.

When the doctor bandages my wrist, Dad passes out. The nurse throws down a blanket before he hits the floor. I ask why Daddy’s sleeping. Mom says she’ll explain later as we scurry out the door. All the way down the elevator, Dad keeps asking what happened.

One day after I’ve been to the doctor to get my bandage changed I find mom crying in the basement.


A scaly half-moon is seared into my right wrist. Wrinkly pink blisters fan out from the half-moon.


The skin is all red and creased, and sometimes the scales on my half-moon flake. The doctor says it will become less prominent as I grow and my skin stretches.

Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten

What happened to your wrist? I burned it. What happened to your wrist? I burned it. What happened to your wrist? I burned it. What happened to your wrist? None of your business. What happened to your wrist? I burned it.


I try using my left hand more so I can keep my right wrist hidden in my sleeve.


What happened to your wrist? I burned it.


The nerves in my wrist regenerate, and now I feel everything. I’m quiet and keep to myself and some kid in social studies announces he’s figured out my scar was a suicide attempt. I pretend not to hear him.


It’s almost a relief when kids shift their focus from my wrist to my acne: What happened to your face? It’s all broken-out.


My parents offer a skin graft, but I tell them no. The scar’s not that bad and besides, sometimes people tell me it looks cool.


Are you sure you don’t want a skin graft?




Are you sure?




Are you sure?


Yes. I’m sure.