My skin story

The following skin story is by Tom

My skin says everything about where I’ve been and who I’ve become. It tells tales of early years in southern Africa, a fair-haired child burning under the scorching African skies until blisters formed on my shoulders, leaving large, brown freckled patches. My arms followed suit, brown freckles across cream-coloured arms. From childhood until this day, Africa has left its unique branding all over my body and my face: brown freckled skin across my arms, shoulders, face and nose. Large singular freckles across my back and legs.

Accidents growing up left a plastic burn scar on my ankle from playing with fire in the bush. A linear scar on my ear tells of fooling around on a polished floor in boarding school. And a small scar on my nose and lip remind me of the time I was hit in the face with a surfboard while swimming in the sea. Naturally, the surfer was still on the board at the time, so this is one of the more painful scars I can remember receiving. There is even a spot on my forehead where a screwdriver slipped into my head while I was working on a building project. Looking at it always reminds me of how lucky I was to receive the blow there and not any lower - otherwise I most certainly would have lost my eye.

My skin leaves clues to my other stories as well. Service in the armed forces has left a few unique scars from weapons training in cold weather, along with the scars from knee surgery due to an injury sustained during riot training. The scars would not be so prominent if it weren’t for my terrible circulation, which shows the scars whiter than normal in colder weather when my blood seems to go on a holiday somewhere else!

And finally, there are my hands: they look old, withered and wrinkled, yet they haven’t changed appearance since I can remember. A white line across a finger tells the tale of an accident with a sheet of steel when I worked in a factory. And if you had to guess my age on my hands alone you would have surmised that I was in my sixties - whether I was fourteen or forty at the time. Even living under the hot African sun, winter cracked the skin on my knuckles and finger joints enough to make them bleed. And my bad circulation leaves deep wrinkles up until my wrists. The skin on my hands has always looked old and is one of my most distinguishable features. I used to hate them, but now I just accept them as me.

When I look specifically at my skin I remember events from my past. And then I remember how they made me feel and how it moulded me into the person I am today. Mostly, my skin reminds me of my mistakes. But it also leads me to remember to accept who I am. My skin is solely mine and my stories are unique to me as a person. For that, I should be grateful.

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