It’s not Martha’s fault. Not really. I mean, her recipe specified a “medium” saucepan for the boiling water to which I was to add a steady stream of cornmeal. Maybe one person’s medium is the next felon’s large. I’ve been cooking for a long time, so I should be capable of determining what size pan to use for polenta. And no, I wasn’t drinking (it was a school night), so it’s not the booze that did it.
Ultimately, the angry red scar residing on the inside of my wrist is my own damn fault. It’s still healing, so there’s a chance that what is currently quarter-sized will shrink to nothing. I’m putting vitamin E oil on it to help things along. We’ll see.
If the mark remains in some form, that’s okay too. Someday it’ll remind me of a meal I cooked in that weird old house in Houston years ago, when a burp of transitioning cornmeal tried to hitch a ride on my wrist, causing me to cuss and fling my arm but not stop cooking until it was done. And those thoughts will inevitably lead to others, completely unrelated to boiling cornmeal and different definitions of what makes a saucepan “medium.”
I already have a scar on the other wrist, a little U-shaped white line that looks like I toyed with the idea of ending it all but didn’t really commit, using the plastic sword from the garnish on a bloody mary instead of something more deadly. That scar is a physical reminder of my last night as a bartender. I ended my decade-long bartending career on a cool December night in 2001 at a place called Catbirds. I was bringing in an arm-load of dirty glasses from the patio after last call when I tripped on the doorway, dropped the glasses and then landed on hands and knees…in broken glass…in front of a group of my friends who’d come to see me off. A typically graceful exit.
Thinking about Catbirds takes me to Tropical Storm Allison (I was bartending that night), and the still surreal memory of 18-wheelers floating down I-10 on their sides like bath toys. The scar on my upper thigh reminds me of working at Chili’s when I was 19 and getting too close to the chip drawer while wearing a blue jean mini-skirt (thus learning a lesson early in my service career to never wear anything but pants to work). The scar on my bottom lip from Salty, the dog, is a reminder not to mess with dogs (or people, for that matter) when they’re eating. The scar on my right knee from when I was learning to ride a bike equals my childhood home in the Heights and the big tree in the front yard that I used for a brake.
Each scar is its own little wormhole to another place and time. Maybe I don’t mind if this one sticks around.