Two circles, two spots of identification, are scarred on my arm. Like the tattoos of Auschwitz, they set me apart in my environment. Onlookers note that I am an outsider. From a distance, the two scars are camouflaged on the skin below my shoulder. Close up, they might as well be twin towers built upon my arm.
As a young and naive child, I never questioned the marks. They were neither cool nor weird; they were just there. The cigarette burn-looking shapes adorned everybody’s arms in Izmir, Turkey. To my own bewilderment, the circumstances changed once I crossed the Atlantic Ocean. A brazen little child at school pointed to my arm and asked, “Wow! What’s that?” I had no answer. What was that?
He brought his gaze down and squinted at the sight in front of him. Like a mad scientist, he slowly raised an eyebrow – this was indeed a striking discovery. He gripped my arm and twisted it left and right. I felt like an unidentified species held under a microscope. The little scientist was curious yet made no hypothesis. He gently took a few steps back, in either fear or frustration.
The mystery was confounding. At the time, however, my mind was not boggled by the nameless scar. More importantly, why did this kid not have one? Back in Turkey, these marks, whatever they were, were a part of the people. They belonged to the body, and until I moved to the United States, I had found no reason to doubt them.
To my utter confusion and horror, the circle scars began to haunt me with their absence. I searched from arm to arm. White people, brown people, black people – I saw no circle. As I gazed upon the empty surfaces of their skin, the terrible truth dawned on me. These people weren’t aliens, I was.
Though I had to spend numerous days hiding behind the refuge of long-sleeved shirts, I took a peculiar pleasure in the stimulating conversation that the mysterious marks initiated. Did a vampire bite me as an infant? Did Voldemort try to Avada Kedavra me? Sadly, no…these explanations would have been far more captivating than the truth. My parents eventually helped define the marks as tuberculosis vaccination scars, given to all young children in Turkey. I had two scars rather than one since my aunt suffered from tuberculosis; doctors wanted to assure that I would be safe. I had hoped that an answer would finally subdue my curious audience, but no.
My tuberculosis vaccination circles were not just permanent scars on my arm; they were symbols of my Turkish heritage. Gazing into the shiny surface of the shapes, I saw my childhood, my family, my home. I saw the Turkish people. I saw myself.
My scars once embarrassed me, a manifestation of my difference. I had had no desire to be different. Reflecting upon the scars now, however, I cannot imagine my body, the map that tells the story of my life, without the twin circles. Throughout the changes in my life, they are the only part of me that has remained the same. As a child under the mad scientist’s inspection, as a young adult heading into the future, the marks identify who I am. Every so often, the question will come up, “What happened to your arm?” As I explain the scars’ heritage, I end up explaining my own.
Two circles mark my arm, a winding road leading to the origins of my heritage. The scars are my permanent grip on the past, a reminder of who I am. I let the twin towers soar through the skin on my arm, arousing the questions that I now proudly answer.