The Vanishing

The nurse held Jeremy’s left arm with a practiced gentility that would have been motherly if it wasn’t so detached. His real mother was in the waiting room, wearing the kind of plastic smile that adults paste on when they’re the most upset. Jeremy was used to that smile. People did it a lot around him, especially his mother. He was getting really sick of it.

The nurse’s smile wasn’t like his mother’s. She wasn’t upset on the inside; she just didn’t care, which Jeremy figured was part of the job. Doctors and nurses couldn’t go around caring about their patients or they wouldn’t be able to do their work. He watched her gloved hands carefully lower his arm into the vat of softening solution. As usual, it tingled, and he winced.

“I know this hurts,” the nurse cooed, “but if you just tough it out we’re going to get you all fixed up, okay?”

“It hurt more when I made them,” Jeremy muttered, but he didn’t take his eyes off of the scars on his arm. The marks were still pink around the edges, new and raw, but they were already softening. In ten minutes they’d all be gone again, washed away with the rest of his failed attempts to make his mark in life.

“All right, you can take that arm out now.” The nurse turned aside to pick up the smoother, checking its power before turning back to Jeremy. Her eyes were on the clipboard in her off hand. “It says here you’ve had this procedure… seven times before? So this must be old hat to you, huh?” She smiled at Jeremy, who stared back at her sullenly. “I guess you don’t need the restraints, then.”

She pushed aside the soft straps that were used to hold patients’ limbs in place for their first or second scar removal and put the clipboard down, taking Jeremy’s wrist in her hand. The other hand brought the smoother down and turned on the power. A low hum was all that came from the device, but as she pressed it down and ran it slowly across the marred skin, all of the imperfections smoothed beneath its tip. Jeremy could feel the scar tissue breaking down. The sensation was distinctly different from making the cuts; while that was a sharp pain, bright and alive, this was the dull sting of conformity.

“Seven times, huh? So this is number eight?” She was smiling again, trying to make pleasant conversation. “You must get hurt a lot, huh?”

Jeremy’s eyes never left the slowly diminishing scars. “Yeah. I do.”

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