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Michael was changing his shirt in the laundry room when his 11-year-old son walked in.
"Dad, what happened to your back?"
Michael's back was deeply scarred by childhood acne. Still embarrassed by his skin, he'd never been able to get a massage. Even after 20 years of marriage, he still wished he could wear a T-shirt when making love to his wife.
"Did you get burned?" his son asked.
"I got hurt in the war," Michael said.
"The War of Poverty," Michael said. "I was poor, so I had bad health care. Nobody told me I could medically treat my skin. Not my parents, not the doctors. Nobody."
"I'm sorry," his son said. "I wish I could take away those scars."
"You're an awesome kid, you know that?"
"Of course I do," his son said and laughed.
Later that day, Michael saw a gorgeous woman in a restaurant. Her eyes were dark blue like an underground river illuminated by a campfire. But her face was pitted with acne scars—deep craters where Neil Armstrong could have planted a flag. Michael wondered if the woman believed that she was beautiful. Did she look in the mirror and see only her scars? Michael knew that he was lucky his scars were on his back. He could only see them if he performed gymnastics in a mirror. For a moment, he thought to approach the woman, to tell her she was gorgeous and that he understood what it meant to be ashamed of one's skin. But doesn't the reminder of shame only cause more shame?
That night, Michael took off his shirt and asked his wife to massage his back.
"Pretend my scars are stars," he said. "And tell me if you see any constellations."