I shaved a boxer's face this morning. Or maybe a rugby player's. I am used to myself looking scruffy, puffy, bloated and blotched -- but not actually injured. This morning my left eyepitt is scratched, and the surrounding area is dark with blood pooling beneath the skin -- a serious bruise. From a distance, or with my glasses off, it looks like I am wearing an eye patch. Yes, dear reader, I am the proud possessor of a black eye. I'd say it takes me back but it doesn't. I don't think I've ever had one before.
I do recall a softball straight from the bat to my nose when I was seven. (I bled and bled. The batsman looked horrified and proud at the same time.) And I remember a right fist straight from the other boy's shoulder to my face when I was nine. (That was a very embarrassing moment -- he was so much smaller than I.) But no black eyes. I've spent most of my life staying out of fights. Those I couldn't avoid, I lost quickly.
And now this. Black eyes are good for attention, I find. If you feel underappreciated and unnoticed in your life, try walking into the room with a black eye. People stare and stare. A number of strangers have come up to ask how I got it or how I was doing, in concerned tones of voice. I don't mind the attention at all but because of my lack of experience I am unsure of the protocol. I can't pretend that it's a serious imjury. A jocular Ach, you should see the other guy! gets a laugh most of the time (where, Ach, you should see her does not. As a society, we seem to cling to sexist notions).
My daughter Imo is openly envious. Her aim all through her senior rugby season has been to get a black eye. The best players on the team have them, and she wants to join this elite. When she found out how I got mine (squash) she wanted to take up the sport. How long before I can get a black eye at squash? she asked.
This one took me twenty years, I told her.
She sighed. Well, it looks sweet, she said.
I can't remember the last time she has complimented my appearance. I'm going to enjoy the next few days.