Salome hated to glance at her hands. The dark skin that had previously uniformly covered her beautiful hands was now ruined by ugly patches of burn scars. Some patches had even turned pink.
The scars went beyond her wrists up her elbow until to her shoulders, both hands. Everytime she went to the mirror, she hissed an expletive for that fateful day she got burned, eighteen years ago.
She was eight years then blithely playing around her grandmother’s house with her cousins. It was a hide and seek game. She preferred to hide than seek so when it was her turn to hide, she hid well, at no place the seeker would catch her even if it meant going to the forbidden places like the kitchen.
She dived to her grandmother’s kitchen with an intention to hide behind the big pile of firewood.
On that day, ill fortune begot her. A carelessly misplaced firewood lying on the ground caused her to lose her footing and fall right inside the huge pot of porridge that was minding it’s business boiling to be later eaten by the young ones.
Salome shrilled a howl of pain as she pulled her two hands out of the sufuria. Her hands were throbbing in pain. And despite all efforts to help her, they all knew, she included, that her hands would never be the same again.
Salome’s life changed. The rough blotches of burn came with a fierce attitude. She was temperamental and introverted. She wore clothes that had long sleeves to cover her entire hands. Were it not for the pain, Salome would have cut them off and live without hands.
As for her love life in her adult phase, her three exes would all agree that Salome would take more lightly cheating on her than insisting to see her hands. She never let them see her hands. Even when making whoopee, she did it with a long sleeve shirt on.
Salome believed that upon sight on her hideous hands, one would laugh at her or even mock her. She even hated having to go to a doctor for any reason that would make her have a hand injection.
But the doctor cannot be kept away forever. Salome had a bad case of a running stomach for four days. Other symptoms came up and she knew she had no choice but to see a doctor. On her journey, she crossed her fingers wishing that the doctor who she would meet would not ask her to fold her sleeve for an injection.
She was asked to wait for the doctor at the waiting bay. Salome took her seat and started to browse on her phone. She did not even notice the woman who took the seat next to her.
Then one of the hands started to feel itchy and no matter how much she tried to ignore the tingling sensation on the back of her wrist, the feeling heightened.
She gave in and scratched away the itch but accidentally revealed a huge chunk of her scar. She gasped and looked at the woman next to her to see whether she had seen her hands, but Salome gasped louder at what she saw.
Salome’s eyes were wide open in awe. She could not hide the shock from the woman who was smiling confidently at her. Salome shook her head in uncertainty. How could the woman next to her be smiling in her condition?
“I get such looks all the time but you, I must say, you are more than surprised.” The woman said.
“Aren’t you…aren’t you worried about the stares from the people and the constant questions from curious ones?” Salome asked.
She tried to keep her eyes from the woman but she was only too glued. Everything on the woman’s face was awry. Her face was disfigured and distorted severely by what one would have guessed was fire. Her eyes were unusually small in a disproportionate way when her nose amd mouth seemed to have melted together to form a ghastly organ that was used as both nose and mouth.
Seeing the shock on Salome’s face, the woman pulled the wig of her head and revealed to Salome a scalded head with very few scattered, almost countable strands of hair. Salome heaved with bafflement.
“What happened?” Salome finally found her voice.
” I have told the story a thousand times but just to make it short ; angry ex. He cheated on me and I left and moved on. One day as I was walking to my new boyfriend’s house ,the angry ex attacked me with a jar full of acid. It changed my life. Look at my hands.” The woman said.
Salome saw three fingers attached to each other with their own skin on her right hand. Her left hand was all conjoined together. Salome was now in tears.
“No, don’t cry. I have cried enough tears. I cry no more nowadays. The recovery journey was long but I managed somehow. I accepted myself and I walk head high and tell the story to anyone who stops to ask. I could wear a hijab to stop people from staring but then I would not have changed so many lives as I have.” She said.
Salome wanted to ask whose lives she could possibly have changed by exposing such ugly scars but was interrupted by the call by her doctor to go in next. As she entered the office, she turned and saw that the woman had already started speaking to someone else, laughing confidently as she complained of the hot sun outside there. Her doctor did not inject her for the diarrhoea but only prescribed a few drugs for her.
As Salome left, she saw the woman again, speaking self assuredly to a nurse. She saw her and waved at her. Salome waved back trying to smile as broadly.
She boarded a matatu feeling challenged by the woman she had met. Even with such intense physical impairment, the woman had an assertiveness that even a model could not match.
Salome breathed in and out and slowly took off her jacket to reveal her scarred hands. Her heart was beating like a drum when she folded the jacket and placed it on her lap. She had never exposed her hands to anyone but her mirror.
“Waah, I was wondering why in this hot sun you would chose to stay in a jacket!” The conductor said.
“Mum, look at this woman’s hands, they look bad !” This came from a small child of about six who sat behind Salome with her mother. The mother looked worn out from all the shouting and ordering at the apparently obstinate child . She was now embarrassed at her daughter’s comment to Salome and almost pinched the child for being blunt but Salome stopped her.
“You know why my hands are this bad?” Salome asked and the little child shook her head. “I was small like you playing around carelessly and I fell into a sufuria of hot uji. I did not listen to my mother when she told me to stop playing carelessly.” The child listened keenly and took a deep breath.
“Is it good to disobey mummy?” Salome asked the child who shook her head vigorously. She smiled at the child and then turned to the beaming mother. Minutes later, the woman and the small child asked the conductor to drop them at the next stop. As the woman alighted, she touched Salome.
“Thank you so much. My daughter has never been this calm in a matatu.” She said and the matatu veered off. Salome grinned at finally understanding what the woman at the hospital had meant by saying she had changed the lives of many.
Salome knew then , that no matter how ugly our scars can be, when embraced confidently, they change a life even in a seemingly small way.