It was twilight and my grandmother had driven up from Manhattan to stay with us for a few weeks. There was a phone call from a neighbor down the street...my sister had driven into a car on her bike and was lying in the middle of the road. Apparently bleeding. My stepfather, a man not known for his empathy towards his stepchildren, orchestrated the ambulance, and he, my mother, and my grandmother left immediately, leaving me at home with my two younger brothers. Later on, my grandmother told me she nearly fainted when she saw my sister lying on the street.
The next day or so, I went to the hospital to see her.
Does it hurt, I asked. She said not really, but I have 28 stitches on my forehead and 30 on my thigh. I imagined how awful it was. I shuddered when I saw her bandages, but we weren't close then.
Even now, when I look at her, and I see her scar, to this day, it takes me back to that night. A night during a period of our life where everything inside our home was bedlam and chaos. Screaming, yelling, abuse, tears, and I'm not just talking about my very young brothers. I know why my sister was riding her bike very fast that night, until the driver blinded by the evening sunset, ran into her. She did what she did every night. Riding her bike was her salvation- away from the tension-filled Victorian house we lived in. Away from the questions and accusations and demands of our stepfather. Just away.
When my sister was in her early 20's, she took a self-portrait of herself - an immense close up of her face, her scar in full view, which lay like a thin, beige invisible snake across her forehead. My stepfather was long gone from our lives, and she was finally able to own it, and turn it into an object of beauty.