These days, I forget it’s there. A quarter-sized scar living behind my left shoulder, raised slightly, just to remind me on lightless days, strength’s got my back. I remember an impetuous 19-year-old thirsting for an external emblem of grit, a species of moxie her gut goaded her to chisel onto her body. Now I look at this naive version of me, shaped into a faded black tattoo for inner power. I want to hold her hand, whisper into her heart -- You had it all along. The day I planned to get it, Ma tried reverse psychology. I came home, the sweat of Canal Street on my skin, Manhattan's traffic in my ears, my brown blouse carrying a dark stain, the blood dried like petty sacrifice. A small price for a pithy message in Chinese. Not long after, my brother ventured for his own version in Alibata, our native language before the Spanish came. Chained around his arm rang permanent the words that would tell our story -- Lakas loob. Neither one of us knew the brands we chose to map on ourselves would carve canyons deep enough to contain bodies built to fight the biggest storm of our lives. Neither could see the aberrant ripples the drops of our blood would make on the river he and I were born in -- both with kidneys that would have drowned. His tattoo was raised, too. An inked ridge atop a hill high enough to fear a fall. We got up again. Today, a new scar is etched on each of our bellies, housing a living kidney beneath strata of flesh, raising our skin, just so.
Shei Sanchez is a writer, photographer, and teacher from Jersey City, New Jersey. Her writing can be found in Gyroscope Review, Sheila-Na-Gig online, Entropy Magazine, Sepia Journal, Pudding Magazine, and other fine places. She has work forthcoming in Main Street Rag and two anthologies, the Women of Appalachia Project’s Women Speak and Woodhall Press’s Nonwhite and Woman. She lives on a farm with her partner in southeast Ohio. Read more on sheisheiwrites.wordpress.com.