Home > November 9(2)

November 9(2)
Author: Colleen Hoover

My stabbing mood continues as I spear at my salmon with my fork, but then the waiter interrupts to ask if I’ll take a picture of the two of them.


I begrudgingly slide out of the booth. He tries to hand me his phone for the picture, but I hold up my hand in protest and proceed to walk around him.

“I need to use the restroom,” I mutter, walking away from the booth. “Just take a selfie with him. He loves selfies.”

I rush toward the restroom to find a moment of reprieve from my father. I don’t know why I asked him to meet me today. It could be because I’m moving and I won’t see him for God knows how long, but that’s not even a good enough excuse to put myself through this.

I swing open the door to the first stall. I lock it behind me and pull a protective seat cover out of the dispenser and place it over the toilet seat.

I read a study on bacteria in public restrooms once. The first stall in every bathroom studied was found to have the least amount of bacteria. People assume the first stall is the most utilized, so most people skip over it. Not me. It’s the only one I’ll use. I haven’t always been a germaphobe, but spending two months in the hospital when I was sixteen left me a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to hygiene.

Once I’m finished using the restroom, I take at least a full minute to wash my hands. I stare down at them the entire time, refusing to look in the mirror. Avoiding my reflection becomes easier by the day, but I still catch a glimpse of myself while reaching for a paper towel. No matter how many times I’ve looked in a mirror, I still haven’t grown used to what I see.

I bring my left hand up and touch the scars that run across the left side of my face, over my jaw and down my neck. They disappear beneath the collar of my shirt, but underneath my clothing, the scars run down the entire left side of my torso, stopping just below my waistline. I run my fingers over the areas of skin that now resemble puckered leather. Scars that constantly remind me that the fire was real and not just a nightmare I can force myself awake from with a pinch on the arm.

I was bandaged up for months after the fire, unable to touch most of my body. Now that the burns are healed and I’m left with the scars, I catch myself touching them obsessively. The scars feel like stretched velvet, and it would be normal to be as revolted by their feel as I am by their appearance. But instead, I actually like the way they feel. I’m always absentmindedly running my fingers up and down my neck or arm, reading the braille on my skin, until I realize what I’m doing and stop. I shouldn’t like any aspect of the one thing that ripped my life out from under me, even if it is simply the way it feels beneath my fingertips.

The way it looks is something else. Like each of my flaws has been blanketed in pink highlights, put on display for the entire world to see. No matter how hard I try to hide them with my hair and clothes, they’re there. They’ll always be there. A permanent reminder of the night that destroyed all the best parts of me.

I’m not one to really focus on dates or anniversaries, but when I woke up this morning, today’s date was the first thought that popped into my head. Probably because it was the last thought I had before falling asleep last night. It’s been two years to the day since my father’s home was engulfed by the fire that almost claimed my life. Maybe that’s why I wanted to see my father today. Maybe I hoped he would remember—say something to comfort me. I know he’s apologized enough, but how much can I actually forgive him for forgetting about me?

I only stayed at his house once a week on average. But I had texted him that morning to let him know I would be staying the night. So one would think that when my father accidentally catches his own house on fire, he would come rescue me from my sleep.

But not only did that not happen—he forgot I was there. No one knew anyone was in the house until they heard me scream from the second floor. I know he holds a lot of guilt for that. He apologized every time he saw me for weeks, but the apologies became as scarce as his visits and phone calls. The resentment I hold is still very much there, even though I wish it wasn’t. The fire was an accident. I survived. Those are the two things I try to focus on, but it’s hard when I think about it every time I look at myself.

I think about it every time someone else looks at me.

The bathroom door swings open, and a woman walks in, glances at me and then quickly looks away as she heads toward the last stall.

Should have picked the first one, lady.

I look myself over one more time in the mirror. I used to wear my hair above the shoulders with edgy bangs, but it’s grown a lot in the last couple of years. And not without reason. I brush my fingers through the long, dark strands of hair that I’ve trained to cover most of the left side of my face. I pull the sleeve of my left arm down to my wrist and then pull the collar up to cover most of my neck. The scars are barely visible like this, and I can actually stomach looking at myself in the mirror.

I used to think I was pretty. But hair and clothes can only cover up so much now.

I hear a toilet flush, so I turn quickly and make my way to the door before the woman can exit the stall. I do what I can to avoid people most of the time, and not because I’m afraid they’ll stare at my scars. I avoid them because they don’t stare. The second people notice me, they look away just as fast, because they’re afraid to appear rude or judgmental. Just once it would be nice if someone looked me in the eyes and held my stare. It’s been so long since that’s happened. I hate to admit that I miss the attention I used to get, but I do.

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