I just stood up from the table abruptly
after reading some Billy Collins with Bubba,
and the upward/forward motion of my torso
caused me to cough violently. I don’t know why.
Ten seconds or so of the kind of cough that
warms the forehead as you feel blood running
to your face and pressure building between
that forehead and the top of your cranium.
Along with this bizarre sensation came a memory
of Meg from my days at Catholic elementary school.
Meg, an Irish girl, whose cheeks were flushed
with bright crimson sparks of facial fireworks.
She said that these were actually blood vessels
broken by… actually I forget her explanation,
but it made sense to my 10 year old self
who would’ve killed to have some of my own.
For, as I met more Irish people—and descendants
of Irish people—I realized that these cheeks
were more of a defining trait than anything my
Gerwelshwedeslavscotswinglish roots gave me.

When I got older, I developed a patch of epidermal
evidence of an inward massacre that appeared to
have left blood spattered against the inside of my skin,
where my violin rises to meet my lower jaw.
A violinist’s hickey! The proud and tough rash
sported by some committed violinists and violists.
It is a mark of shared experience, like calloused
fingers or the slightly warped curve of our spines.
To everyone else, it seemed to be the first sign that
I had any sort of physical relationship with anyone.
I always replied, “No, you know me.  Do you really
think I would ever have one of those hickeys?”

As a toddler and kid, there were occasions
when I would cry so hard that I would
cough so hard that it felt as if my head
would explode, or that some vessels would pop.
I feel like that toddler whenever I say,
“Do you think I would have one of those?”
or when I explain to someone glaring at my neck
that it comes from my violin.  No burst capillaries.

This was originally published online by Lingua.

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