Sooooo this happened the other day.
I’ve been telling people a book fell on my face but that’s a lie. I tripped. Face planted, to be precise. I sent my brother the photo because I knew he’d get a laugh. The first thing he said was: “Trying to decide what’s worse. That black eye or the Hitler mustache.”
The Hitler ‘stache will forever be a trigger phrase for my brother and me; as soon as one of us says those words, we break into uncontrollable laughter. A bit inappropriate as Hitler connotes a tragic history but when I tell you why, I’m sure you’ll understand.
I can’t believe I’m sharing this with the internet but since I posted a photo of my massive shiner, why not go all the way and secure a permanent place in the No Shame Hall of Fame.
A long time ago when my brother and I were still small…
“Can you two get out of the house???”
When those words came out of our mother’s mouth, my brother and I knew to stop what we were doing, drop everything, and jam out of there as fast as our short little kid legs can take us.
It was the summer of my 6th grade year, my brother was in 3rd. The school year had just ended and we were home all day, summer camp wasn’t starting for another couple of weeks.
We hopped on our bikes to the nearest trail to bike the 11 mile path. It’s a safe and lovely trail, popular amongst residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. A sleepy suburb stretches along one side, marsh and bay on the other. Seagulls squack from high above and the cool sea water winds wrap around you, as you bike or jog down the elevated stretch. It was an excellent choice for me and my brother, the ride long enough to keep us out of the home for several hours. Our parents often encouraged us to go when we drove them up the wall.
My brother and I were terrible to each other, always bickering and fighting. I was jealous of his sneaky ways. Younger siblings tend to learn from older siblings’ mistakes and figure out ways to avoid getting in trouble by parents. My brother was the master at this game, cleverly navigating his mischief and flaunting the misbehavior in front of my face but rarely getting caught by our parents. It was infuriating how he managed to get away with everything. In retribution, I would pick on him. Instead of backing down from me, he became the perfect annoying little brother, endlessly poking and jabbing, provoking reactions. I knew that’s exactly what he wanted to achieve but I would always give him a reaction. It’s not that I didn’t have self control, he was really that annoying.
While we were biking, he was at it again. Weaving his bike around me so I would lose my balance. Of course he got a rise out of me which he thought was the funniest thing on the planet. As mad as I was, I remember feeling pride that I hadn’t fallen off my bike to give him yet another win. We were laughing and bantering as kids do “haha, too bad, still haven’t made me fall why don’t you just stop trying?” “Shut up, I’ll make you fall.”
I should’ve kept my mouth shut because the talking distracted my riding focus. As we raced down the trail on high speed, he zig zagged a little too close. Our wheels got tangled, our bikes collided and I went flying.
From the time we were able to walk my father (an athelete; kendo, equestrian, rugby, and I think judo) trained my brother and I how to fall. The lessons served well as I launched off my bike and skid down the concrete path. Head first, hands and arms protecting my face.
When the impact subsided, I stood up to assess the damage. Sure enough, my hands were bloody, arms cut up, knees and legs a mess. I looked over at my brother who was frozen in place, his eyes wide and terrified. I gather watching the fall was just as horrific as my entire body eating the concrete. I asked him if my face was okay and he just stood there stuck like a statue. Feeling my face, there was no blood. I could see, speak and hear so I assumed the damage was only to my body. Thank you, dad!
The crash bent my front tire so we had to walk home. On our way back, I caught him peeking over at my face every few seconds or so. I assumed he was checking my expressions to gauge my anger.
When our mother saw me, she immediately dragged me to the bathroom and started cleaning the wounds. Pulling pebbles out of my scruffed up hands, knees, arms, disinfecting, bandaging while scolding my brother for making me fall off my bike. I remember smiling as he was finally the one in trouble but, the joke was on me.
I suddenly saw splotches of blood on the bathroom tile and felt the blood dripping down my face. My mother looked up at my face me and did a double take. For some miraculous reason, I had no major injuries on my face. Except one.
I somehow, some way scraped the groove above the upper lip, right underneath the nose. The cut was so deep, it didn’t start bleeding until I smiled. How I managed to avoid injuring any part of my face and only the cleft was just so bizarre, she couldn’t help herself. She laughed so hard, tears streamed down her face while asking how? Why?? Then my brother joined in the laughter. I suspect he saw the cut earlier but refrained from voicing his amazement of how such an injury could occur. I was staring at my face in the mirror, in awe by the odds of only scraping open a part of the human face that seems near impossible to hurt.
A few days passed and I was on my way to healing. Summer camp was starting and I was super stoked. This was a camp my brother and I attended for years. I had a crush (Danny) and in the 5th grade summer, we had a little summertime romance.
And then, disaster struck.
When the raw cut on my face turned into a scab, it formed into a black rectangle that started from the base of my nostril, to the top of my lip. It was a mean, thick ugly scab that was noticeable from miles away. I can’t image what I looked like to strangers, I was a teenager girl with… a mustache. And not just any mustache. The scab was identical to Hitler’s mustache.
The cut was so deep, it took the entire summer to heal . Hiding it with a bandaid looked sillier than the scab. I had no alternative but to spend my 6th grade summer with my new bestfriend: the Hitler ‘stache. My crush informed me that he had a girlfriend. Liar. He just didn’t want to be seen with the girl rocking a Hitler mustache.
The only good memory from that summer was how every time my mother looked at me she lost it, laughing so hard she would cry. Since she couldn’t look at me with a straight face, I barely got yelled at for wrong doings.
So you see, as mortifying as the shiner is, it’s nothing compared to suffering through an adolescent summer, with a prominent Hitler mustache scab for all to see and mock.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself 😉