As we were talking I was looking at a blanket draped over the sofa opposite me. I was finding it difficult to make sense of what you were saying and what I was trying to say to you and I think the blanket was making it more difficult. I am considering this now that you have put down the phone and I am looking at it and not trying to have a conversation at the same time. I have a feeling that I might have upset you and I feel upset but I was so distracted by the blanket that I can’t even remember exactly what we said to each other or why I feel upset.
The blanket is made of brightly coloured crocheted wool. It is squareish and the colours clash and push into each other in a way that is bizarrely mesmerising and definitely unsettling. They move in single rows from the edge of the blanket into the centre where there is a loud turquoise square made up of about five knitted rows converging. There is no order or rhythm to it. The colours are discordant but not in an intentional way. It looks like it was made by someone who was trying to get over something through frenzied activity.
It belonged to Rose, who was unhappy in Glasgow and had decided to move back home. At the time that she was leaving, I was moving into a new flat and so I bought some of her things from her and she threw in a lot of bits and pieces on top of what I bought, including the blanket. I didn’t know her very well but when I went to collect the things from her flat I wanted to tell her that she was probably unhappy because she was living in a really dark, sad, basement flat on her own.
You were asking me whether I wanted to see you again and I was trying to explain that I did want to see you but that I thought it might be a bad idea for us to see each other. You wanted to know why I thought it was a bad idea and I said I didn’t really know. Then I started rambling and you went silent and I wanted to tell you about the blanket as I felt it might be contributing to my confusion.
As you were talking I think my brain was trying to make connections between the colours in the rows of the blanket, connections that I have now established are not there. I was aware of how the blanket had arranged itself on the sofa, loosely, folded in places. This complicated the movement of the lines of coloured wool. The combined effect was to intensify and confuse my attempts to communicate what I was feeling.
The trick is to start writing about something – anything. Pick an object, the first thing that comes to mind and start riffing. At some point you will realise that the object is a placeholder for the things you really want to say but didn’t know you wanted to say, a tap.
This story isn’t like that. It is a story about a scab, my scab. My scab in this story is not standing in for a larger theme or message.
I was around seven when I won the wound that would yield the scab. At that age, any injury that breaks the skin is a kind of trophy, a badge of honour. Envy stronger than empathy for a classmate with an arm in a sling.
A swinging farm gate, brightly painted stand-in for a merry-go-round, stacked high with squealing children scraped the skin off the top of my foot. In the following weeks the wound bubbled, oozed, changed colour, its character closely monitored by my inner circle. A slow dehydration before the scab came loose. A constant struggle to prevent my sister from peeling it off prematurely. She liked pulling things, peeling things, later, a pimple squeezer. She had a reputation. Children came from the top of the road to have their teeth pulled by Emma. She had a way of softening you up, calming you down. Making you feel like it was the most natural thing in the world to have a filthy piece of thread wrapped around your tooth and tied to a door handle. Slammed.
Eventually, naturally, the scab came loose. I kept it in cotton wool in a matchbox and occasionally exhibited it. On one such occasion, my sister and I were standing on a large Persian rug in a friend’s entrance hall when a scuffle broke out between us. The scab escaped its box and dissolved into the rich detail of the rug. I remember that even she, cold-hearted ruthless older sister, was a little devastated by the loss.