At 9:01:30 p.m., Feng stopped the car in the driveway and pressed the button on the garage remote. While the door rolled up, I started to share an anecdote. We were coming back from the movie theatre and we were all in a good mood.
At 9:01:55 p.m., Mark got antsy—in hindsight, he probably needed to go pee. “Go ahead,” Feng said.
At 9:02:05 p.m., Mark unbuckled his seat belt, opened the passenger door and got out of the car. I grabbed my bag and was about to follow him. The garage is small, it’s easier to get out when the car is in the driveway.
At 9:02:07 p.m., Mark slammed the passenger door and immediately starting screaming.
“AAAAAAAAAAAHHH! IT HURTS! IT HUUUUURTS!”
Feng and I froze. I looked over my shoulder. Mark was standing outside, by the door, his hand….
We bolted out of the car. Feng was faster than me—he opened the door and freed Mark’s hand.
I grabbed him.
This is the moment when you wish you could rewind three seconds in time, when you don’t want to look at a potentially bad injury but you have to.
Hand still attached to wrist. Good. All five fingers here. Good.
That was all I needed to know for now. I couldn’t see anything in the dark and Mark was all bundled up in his winter coat, still screaming. I just wrapped my arms around him while Feng was unlocking the door. I remained calm but I was scared. I could feel his pain.
Once inside the house, I assessed the injury. Just a pinch mark on the pinkie. Not too bad.
Coats off, shoes off. “Upstairs,” I instructed. I made Mark move his fingers and make a fist. Nothing broken, apparently. Then I ran cold water over his hand, half-comforting, half-lecturing.
“I know, I know… HOW MANY TIMES DID I TELL YOU TO NOT SLAM DOORS? Okay, okay… here here… does it hurt if I do this… YOU COULD HAVE GOTTEN HURT REALLY BAD! THAT’S HOW YOU BREAK BONES! Shhh… shhh… it’s okay… Does it still hurt really bad?”
“Yes,” Mark sobbed.
“Are you scared? You’re shivering!”
“I need to peeeee!”
Sigh. “Go. And take off your clothes as well. Bath time.”
“NOOOO! IT’S GONNA HURT WITH THE WATER!”
“I just washed your hand with soap and you were okay with it!”
“But the bath has more waaaaater!”
I filled the tub while Mark was trying to figure out how it could possibly sleep with his injured finger—apparently, his hand must be tucked under his head—and my heartbeat slowed down a bit. The rest would be routine. Arnica cream, a bandage, all forgotten by tomorrow.
I still remember the first time Mark bled. He was six or seven months old, and I was sitting on the couch, feeding him. He was fussy, restless—one minute he was drinking, the next he was pushing the bottle away. At one point, I wiped his mouth with my shirt and I saw blood. My heart stopped. I inspected his face, not quite sure what happened. Did I hurt him? I never figured out where the blood came from—I think his first tooth may have come through, cutting the inside of his lips.
For the first time, I realized my baby would eventually get hurt once in a while. This wasn’t a pleasant thought.
A few months later came the first scraped knee after running on unsteady legs and falling at the Jardin des Plantes with my mom and me. Feng was angry and fussed over him for hours after we came back later in the day. “It’s not like it was a major trauma!” I insisted, angry to be blamed for something I couldn’t have prevented. “You know it’s gonna happen again, right?”
It did, every now and then. Nothing too serious—the scariest injury was the cut on his head in Argentina. Mark isn’t a daredevil, he seems to be aware of potential dangers.
I don’t have psychological scars from my childhood but I have plenty of white marks on my legs and my hands. Most of my injuries were the result of biking or skating down a slope. Once, I managed to fall on a bamboo stick—my mom used bleach and tweezers to get the many splinters out, I still have the scar on my right thigh. The physical pain never lasted that long but I remember feeling vulnerable, embarrassed, scared of looking at the injury. I remember standing in the bathtub while my mom was washing away blood and gravels, other grownups around trying to assess if I needed stitches. I remember cotton with eosin and the blood-red stain it left on the skin. I remember hating bandages because they made the injury look serious.
I still get hurt once in a while. After Mark was born, I kept on getting cuts and bruises—when you’re barely sleeping, rushing all the time and entirely dedicated to keeping a newborn alive, you tend to forget you how to take care of yourself.
“I get boo-boos all the time,” Mark whined as I was drying him up.
“No, not really. Just once in a while. That’s life.”
“Yeah, like I said… that’s life.”