When I was seven or eight—I can’t remember the exact year—I was hit in the head at close range with a baseball. There was a small lot of overgrown grass towards the end of my block, and sometimes us kids would venture there and kick a soccer ball around or, as was the case that particular evening, grab some mitts and a plastic bat and play stunted games, teeing the ball this way and that, trying—despite the severe temptation—not to hit any homers and/or break any car windows.
The whole thing was an accident, of course. The kid, who was a bit older than me, didn’t know his own strength, and no one was smart enough to suggest that maybe we should be playing with a softer ball, even if the shrimp of a child pitcher—that would’ve been me—was already on a Little League team and could hack it with a professional ball, no problem. We weren’t thinking about the logistics. We just wanted to have fun. So of course when I pitched the ball, the kid swung with all his might, and instead of flying into the street, the hardened edge of that leather flew straight into my forehead. The force of the blow knocked me over. I was dazed. I cried. For a while, everyone thought a concussion was inevitable, but when I woke up in the middle of the night and still knew my name (Rebecca) and who the president was (Clinton) and my favorite Disney character (Peter Pan, duh), a trip to the ER was deemed unnecessary. But man oh man, the goose egg I wore for weeks. And weeks. And then years, until it became apparent this part of me wasn’t going away, that my skull would be deformed forever.
I think about my body a lot, and not always in pleasant terms. (I’m a woman in America, after all.) But sometimes I remember there are parts of me that evade the “norm,” blemishes real and culturally created, and that these have stories behind them. Which is all anyone can ask for, really—to have a tale of some kind to at least footnote all that insecurity. As we’ve been preparing the issue you’re about to read, I’ve been thinking plenty about the parts of me that don’t quite fit, both because I often do and because so much of Issue Ten is about the malleability and fallacies of the human body. What happens, for instance, when there are diseases that go unnamed, that cause harm to our physiology but remain a mystery? What happens when our bodies become so fragile we must create new ones in their stead? How do we become clinical when so much of our history with the body is personal? How do we turn the grotesqueness of the interior outward? And beyond the physical: how do we connect with one another? How do we talk to one another about what our bodies can or can’t do, should or shouldn’t?
Issue Ten is a mapping of bodies of sorts, and it’s also a reminder that there are stories beneath all this flesh and bone, all this sinew and gristle. They’re the stories of us, no matter how profane we might think we are. They’re the stories of us.