“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”
― Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
Basically, terrible. I’ve picked up a few pounds and my skin has decided that one bout of puberty just wasn’t enough. I am covered in flea bites, mosquito bites, scorpion stings, and acne scars. I haven’t showered in a while seeing as water is by no means a constant in my household. My feet smell like sewage soaked cheese death and the cheap roll-on deodorant I bought yesterday just isn’t cutting it. I’m red faced and sweaty and I have a (sort of) accidental dreadlock in my hair. I am hopefully the ugliest I will ever be in my life (and if not, I pray that when that time comes, I will be somewhere even farther away than Ecuador, preferably in the back of a dark subterranean cave surrounded by eyeless lizards). But when I look in the mirror (a severed car door variety sitting on a shelf in the bathroom) I am satisfied with my appearance.
The extra poundage is a reminder of every potato I’ve painstakingly peeled and cooked and eaten with my host family. Every overpriced cheese sandwich I bought at the local café so that I wouldn’t feel bad about using their internet. Every fifty cent ice cream that I ate with my friends just because it was fifty cents and in front of our faces. I look down at my growing waistline and I see exotic fruits, piles of chochos, habas, and choclo, delicious ceviches, patacones, sopas, and anything else you could possibly find down a back alleyway of a bus terminal. I am content with my weight.
My legs are scarred and bloodied and resemble something that has recently been pulled from the depths of a thresher. The sight of them causes my family unease but I know the story behind every mark. The flea bites come from the cat who became my first friend in my community as well as from every puppy that we have had (each has died mysteriously) in the past seven months. The large round scar on my left knee harkens back to February when my mom came to visit and I fell on the sidewalk, ripping my new jeans. Three circular cuts on my feet represent an intense game of barefoot soccer in Macas in the rain. A brand new blister the size of my heel is a bothersome memento from that time we climbed Chimborazo. I am content with my wounds.
The thing is, every splotch, every fatty butt dimple, every weird spot on my skin and clothes holds within it seven months of memories. I like that I can look in the mirror and say “yes, this experience has definitely changed me”. As much as we make fun of our deteriorating appearances, there is no denying the fact that our bodies show the wear and tear of an adventure and give us a certain credibility. I remember when my mom came to visit and a friend of mine asked her “does Carly seem so different to you?”. I think that we have all been through such a life altering and unfathomable experience that it pains us to hear that no, we don’t seem that different. After an extended period of self reflection and growth we don’t want to go home and slide back into our old lives. We want to return to the painfully stagnant monotony of our suburban towns and think, wow, I am so much bigger than this. And more than that we want others to look at us and acknowledge our metamorphosis. So when I return in a few short weeks I want to hold this hideous head high and watch my friends and neighbors shrink away in fear. I want them to whisper “what happened to her?!”. I want them to lie and tell me I look fine and that the blood trickling down my hairy legs makes me look “rebellious”. Because Ecuador has left its marks on me (both visible and imperceptible) and I like myself better this way.