Life’s Souvenirs

It’s tough having scars like these at such a young age.


Photo © Icarus Blake

When I was a baby, freshly baked bread, my body was eager to grow. So eager, in fact, that my ribs outran the rest pushing my sternum in, resulting in what is known in layman’s terms as a chicken breasted chest (pectus excavatum). Not to be confused with pigeon chest, my particular circumstance left me with a veritable dent right in the middle of my tiny torso.

Other than the occasional feelings of deformity, it hindered me not. I used to eat cereal out of it with morning cartoons and my aunt Linda used me as a finger bowl when she did her pedicures. I was one of the fastest athletes around, but the doctors determined that with age the condition could cause complications with my heart and lungs. And so I had my first operation at nine in New York. They sliced across my chest with a scalpel and then continued on to cut my ribs down to size leaving them floating there to reconnect, permanently removing my xiphoid process (the little bone bump at the bottom of your sternum that “knocks the wind out of you”) in the process.

This was when I discovered that I was allergic to morphine via serious vomiting every time I pushed the button. So I basically went through recovery sans painkillers. They outfitted me with a Storm Trooper protection vest and sent me home after about a week. Unfortunately, the hole never went away and, on top of that, my ribs all fused together into a solid chest bone hindering the ability of my lungs to expand.

Jump to my freshman year of high school and it’s time for a patch up job. I managed to have it scheduled mid school year so I could join the football team, and fully recover in time to play the next season. This time I went to an expert who specialized in this condition at UCLA medical center. He said he’s do it all with lasers and carve me up good. So there was my sunburnt ass hanging out of the hospital/prison robe. It’s all déjà vu, you know, nervous that they’re gonna fuck up the anesthesiology, then the nurse talks to you and has you laughing and scatter brained as your going down, fade to black…

You wake up with what you’ll one day know is the worst hangover you’ll ever have and a tube down your throat. Having fully come to, I started bangin’ on my bed until the nurse came and freed my food tunnel. Famous first words: “Water!”. Not an option, they just bring you ice chips which you mouth melt with a vengeance trying to rehydrate the desert you once breathed out of. Then it’s the heavy feeling on your chest, which now includes an internal metal bar, staples in skin, and two tubes suckin’ out fluids. Needless to say, it made for some shallow breathin’.

Constant pain and discomfort, you sit there with a needle through your arm, unable to move, counting down the minutes before you can press the painkillers in. My roommate was a younger kid missing an arm and a hand, and he stilled button mashed with the best of ‘em. Ninja turtles all day until he ran outta steam.

The highlight reel goes a little something like this: older night nurse was very rough when emptying my urine bag… which was connected directly to the inside of my member, sexy day nurse gave me a sponge bath the next day, staples removed from chest and catheter from cock (don’t try this at home, and pray for less pain), forced to stand for first time and walk a bit (brutal), Ma helped me pee in a plastic container and spilled everywhere (super awkward), new night nurse decided to chill in my room all night with me and my father watching movies, my first Vicodin led to sleep apnea and sweaty fever dreams of a three lunged chicken in snake form.

I recovered rather quickly, my high pain tolerance led me to ditch the Vicodin to my doc’s dismay, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the muscle relaxers. It’s tough having scars like these at such a young age. Little kids stare at you like a monster on the beach, you cross your arms a lot in swimming pools, you sensitive about being touched, and you feel like no matter how much you bench, you’ll never have pecs. But, eventually, you stop giving a fuck basically. You can still have a good body, a woman’s touch is hard to find discomforting, and nothing is gonna stop you from going topless in the NYC summertime.

In the end, I’ve embraced them. I wear them like my own personal Superman symbol. Evidence of a life lived. The physical embodiment of this story. Nowadays, I look at scars like even more meaningful tattoos. Just another piece in my trophy collection.


Icarus Blake & Max Power: Editors in Chief
Lora Wiley: Managing Editor
Teo J. Babini: Senior Editor
Greta Pininfarina: Fashion Director
Miko Sala: Art Director
Tiffany Credle: Senior Publishing Editor
Daniel Cardona: Graphic Designer
Luigi Scarcella: Graphic Illustrator
Matt Heidkamp: Editorial Producer and eCommerce Manager
Andrew Rodriguez: Editorial Producer
Nancy Cooper: Finance Supervisor
ePublished by Kodezero NYC
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Contributors to this issue:

Lance Steagall /Holi Day
Lance Steagall is a Chicago product living and working in New York City.

Shay Neary/The McMichelin Review
Shay Neary is a trans-woman college grad living in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. She currently works at RedFarm in Greenwich Village. She is a newbie to NYC and has an obsession with street food and Starbucks.

Simon Gaines/Sonnet XVIII
Simon Gaines lives in New York City. He likes boy stuff and girl stuff and is currently working on his encyclopedic Star Wars knowledge. You can follow his unboxing video channel on YouTube at ToyCarCollection.

Filippo ‘Phil Sick’ Anniballi/Underwearld: An Exposè of Italian Politics
Italian writer, journalist, and performer, born in 1976. Grew up in New York, and lived between Italy, the U.S., England, and Canada. His stories and essays have appeared in underground magazines such as Thorazine, Catastrophe, and Vice Magazine. He worked for the Big Issue, and published Milingo Contro Tutti (2009), which was GQ Italy’s book of the month in July of the same year. He often appears in projects and short films (turbofilms) by Alterazioni Video impersonating himself and other dubious characters.

Ryan Johnson/Best of Instagram: Ryan Johnson
Ryan Johnson is a San Francisco photographer capturing life in the bay area through portraits, street photography, city and landscapes.

Albert Nicolello/Veggie Pride
Italian born, I received my degree in International Marketing Management from European Business School in London and shortly thereafter moved to New York where I continued my studies in Photography at New York Film Academy.

Muge Karamanci/The Last Name of Time
She is a photographer, a poet, and a filmmaker. She has lived most of her life in Istanbul, Turkey. Currently, she is living in Boston. She has two Turkish poetry books published.

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