I burned my left hand this weekend, on the knuckle of my middle finger. The skin scorched away in a split second – I could see right through to the cartilage underneath. Not immediately painful, I guess there aren’t many nerves there – but still it shocked me a little. Burns take a long time to mend with me: blistering, cracking and weeping for a good month or more. But eventually the skin draws back together and one day I realise the lesion has healed over.
This burn made me emotional. I realised that because that knuckle protrudes out so far, it had protected the other three from touching the red-hot grill. A weird, small mercy that I’d never considered. My skin is so paper-thin it would have been a nasty singe. My little design fault had become a defensive strength.
I was sitting in a warm bath when the first sting registered. The bath was fragranced by rose-infused salt. There was an amber candle burning. Fresh cotton pjs were waiting for me on my bed. My dog was snoozing, head on pillow. Muttering at a dream. My iPad was full of design magazines. The next day was a holiday. The windows were open and the moon was visible. I started to hum a song I haven’t thought of in a while, and suddenly I understood something that had happened a long time ago. I realised that everything I had ever done. Every word I have ever uttered and every emotion that had been felt or stifled had brought me to that scented bath in this bright house at that clear moment. All the successes, failures and fuck-ups had shaped the instant I lent forward and burned my hand. Everything made sense. I saw that this burn, all the burns, eventually heal. That they have put me exactly where I should be.
I am going to be doing a lot of travelling in the next few months. In SA and beyond – and I have been secretly resisting it. Going along with the planning, pulling arrangements together, making lists of things to do – but at the back of my mind thinking: I would rather stay home. I like to tell people it’s because I have done it all before. But in truth it’s because I don’t want to lose what I have now. Because what I have now is the happiest I have ever been. Because I am afraid that if I do leave, it will all change and go away. And I dread that.
But at some point that night, the plates shifted and settled. My knuckle burn had cauterised the worriment, the song had provided the narrative. It’s a decade since I left NYC, a decade since I feel I failed. A decade since I started again. A decade in which I have been and seen and done and grown and grown-up. All of it informed by the lessons I learned. As Don Henley put it: “Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge”.
I feel completely like me again. So New York, this is My Thanksgiving: and I can’t wait to see you again.