Scar tissue

“How come you don’t have any beard over here, where you have that scar?”
– Son, one recent Saturday

Right on the edge of my chin, on the left side, there’s a scar. It’s not a big one, just a couple of centimeters long, and since it is where it is, you don’t really see it, especially if I’m clean shaven. But then I make a funny or scary face, or grin, the scar travels a little further up, and it’s there for you to see it.

And every once in a while when someone realizes I have a scar on my face, she asks me about it.

“How’d you get that scar?” she’ll say, and I’ll smile and say:

“You should see the other guy.”

And then I tell her the story.

This is some other scarface.

You may not remember or know that in my first year of college, a jewelry store was robbed in downtown Helsinki. It was headline news in Finland, and even bigger than that in my college, since the young, aspiring thief in question was also a fellow student in our business school. Apparently, he was also an aspiring stock broker, and the market had turned on him a few weeks earlier.

Now, imagine me walking down the street in downtown Helsinki, and imagine my surprise when suddenly a door opens in front of me, and a man wearing a striped shirt, black pants and a black mask runs out. I almost walked into the door, but could avoid the collision at the last second.

When I turned to see the man run away, I heard another man yell from inside the store.

“Stop the thief! Stop the thief!” he yelled.

I gently put down the old lady I had just carried across the street, and took off behind the thief. I caught him at the statue of the three blacksmiths, and jumped to tackle him down. We both went down, and as we got up, I saw that he had a knife in his hand. It was hard not to see it, as he was waving it in front of my face.

“Don’t get any closer,” he said.

“It’s OK, put your knife down and give back the diamonds. Give them back, and I’ll make sure the owner won’t press charges. Don’t worry about your investments, just hold onto you portfolio, the index will go up another 1100 points by the end of the year,” I said.

But he didn’t want to hear that, the fool, and instead, he swung his knife. I ducked, then grabbed him by the wrists, and while my grip made him drop his knife, his big ring hit me in the jaw, cutting it open.

And that’s how I got the scar, I’d say.

If she doesn’t buy that, I’ll shake my head, and say, “You’re right, it wasn’t like that. This is what really happened…”

And I tell them about that hockey game. I had scored a hat trick, and the other team was out to get me. They wanted me out of the game, whatever it took.

With only two minutes remaining, the game was tied, and I was out on the ice. I took a pass on the red line, and entered the zone. As I cut to the middle, I fired a wrist shot, but my shot hit the post and the puck was deflected into the stands. Two of their goons came after me, and started to poke me in the chest.

And I tell people I turned away because fighting in hockey is just dumb.

But in the next shift, I blocked a shot with my head, and that’s how I got the scar, I say.

Recently, though, I’ve realized that maybe I shouldn’t tell those stories. Let’s face it, I’m a lover, not a fighter. I should just embrace it.

Yesterday, just as I was about to take the stairs from the basement to the kitchen, I heard Daughter ask my father something that made me stop and eavesdrop on them.

“Grandpa, is this the rocking chair that Dad hit when he was little?” Daughter said, and lifted a tiny purple chair a few inches off the ground.

“That’s it. The doorbell rang and your Dad ran to the door to get there first so he could open it, but he tripped and fell on the rocking chair. That’s how he got that scar, you know,” Dad said.

“I know,” Daughter said.

I smiled and rubbed my chin, then popped my head in the door and yelled, “true story!”

And I’m sticking to it.

How does that make you feel?