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His Scars Tell His Story

You can read long passages of my friend Dave’s life-story, written on his forearms. You can pin-point the lines of needle-tracks, pick out the jail tatoos, and chart the course of his mental health in the criss-crossings of scar tissue inside his wrist.

Dave’s face is similarly printed with sad narratives. He wears a mask of gentleness and peace, but the mask has many holes through which are visible the afterglow of anger, cold flares of guilt, and shadows of intolerable pain.

Dave did his time for his terrible crime. He did it hard, in an old-style, sleep-with-your-****-can kind of prison. Twelve years of hell, still visible in the way his eyes flash warily sideways, always on the lookout for the advent of something worse; eyes that are never surprised when worse arrives. He did another nine mad years behind the razor wire in the high security section of a mental hospital.

What did he learn in those 21 years of lonely separation from the world, from the tiny slice of life the law allowed him? How not to trust people. How to fear authority. How to hide. How to hate.

And now Dave is out, amongst us once again –this man who had one moment of True Madness, 25 years ago, and stabbed his wife.

“A quarter of an inch, Dex,” he explains across the table, “and I would have missed her heart!”

I don’t worry that Dave is holding one of my steak-knives as he speaks, don’t feel at all threatened by his presence, or his past. I don’t think of him as a convicted killer. He’s just a friend, and welcome at my table.

* * * * * *

UPDATE 19/2/10

Dave has been attending Art Therapy classes and doing hundreds of drawings. They are not dark reflections on his tragic experiences, as could be imagined, but full of light and colour, and images of peace and beauty. He is a man of many layers, and some of the more hopeful of these now seems to have the chance of shining through his pain and suffering. The capacity of the human soul to heal itself is inspiring and gratifying.

amberdextrous amberdextrous 51-55, M 57 Responses Feb 4, 2010

Your Response


He is lucky to have a friend like you. Was he your friend at the time he killed his wife or later?

I first met Dave a few years after his long prison ordeal, RickiChickie. I could tell from his tatts that he'd spent some time inside, and it didn't take long for him to spill his story.
Thank You for reading, and for your question.

You are one of a rare group of simply amazing humans.. wish there were more of you..

Thank You for your lovely comment, YBJ2KYA.

The system is not set up to deal with humans out of the perspective that they care, rather for the purpose of individual destruction. It as such has no heart, no soul and therfore no morals.

Stories like this make me question my stance on the government's treatment of criminals. But, as iwearthong just wrote, many criminals are not repentant like Dave. It also sounds like Dave didn't intend to murder his wife, but many criminals do intend to kill. The story, ultimately, doesn't change my opinion on punishment: I think the prison system is an effective punishment for criminals. However, men like Dave should not be punished as severely as a man who murdered his wife intentionally and unsympathetically. I suppose that's a judicial matter, not a penal matter.

Seems Dave is the cliche for the movie viewed criminal. Would like to appreciate you for your kind hearted gestures. Killers and criminals are not always as Dave appears. From your desc<x>ription Dave made a mistake out of anger that he will part for the rest of his life. What is inked into him and scared upon his body are his reflections to tell others his trials and tribulations. In this I must say that people are not always what they appear to be on the surface and it takes time, trust, and risk to put one self out there. Even so, you may look into the eyes of a killer on a daily basis and never know it, some of us were not judged by a court and acted so because we had too. The judgement then comes upon us from ourselves.

Thank You for your kind comments, Discard92. I am glad my story grabbed your attention -for whatever reason- and moved You enough to elicit a written response.<br />
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I trained as a journalist and later wrote children's theatre and adult comedy routines, so I have always made a part of a living as a writer. It beats having a real job!

Wow. I know it says something about me that this is the thing that grabbed my attention, but you are a damn good writer. A very articulate and intelligent and well-woven prose. Methinks you must have some experience in the field, right?

It sounds like you have a treasure trove of information about this tragedy, as well as becoming collateral damage yourself, and the perspective that brings, P. I am not sure I would have been able to sit on such a story for 12 years, but no doubt you would have needed to create some emotional distance from the issues in order to do the full story justice. I wish you well with the project -perhaps your EP posts about the subject might kick-start your writer's mind?- and if you ever need an informal editor's eye... you know where to find me!<br />
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I read Jack's book, borrowed from my local library, and found his account of his mind-state at the time of the crime perfectly plausible. Plaudits to your father for having the courage to publish something so controversial, and for being able to present Jack's story in a cogent narrative, despite the missing material, which I presume was excised for legal reasons.

I dare say you do know the Jack and his crime, though not from the angle I learned about it i.e. what really happened. Yes, he did write his autobiography and my father published it. MUCH of the material was left out. I have a huge folder of correspondence in my cabinet. It has been in cold storage, so to speak, for twelve years. There is much to tell about this story, about mental illness, about the justice system, and especially about the media. But more importantly, it is about what it means to be human and fallible. There is such a chain of unfortunate and unbalanced thinking that led to this crime. And yes, I will write the story.

Wow! Please write that story, perseverer! Such dysfunctions in our 'justice' systems really need to be exposed. Given some of your clues about him -his occupation (though broadly stated) and your location at the time- I think I know the 'Jack' of whom you write, and what his crime was. Did he write and publish his own version of those terrible events?<br />
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I re-read my story for the first time in ages, and then clicked on your comment. When I read your statement "Dave is a hero" it made me take a deep breath at the purity of your compassion and the generosity of your spirit, and I realised that there is another 'angle' to his story: Dave has *forgiven* his community for the terrible injustice it inflicted on him. He is, indeed, a Hero.<br />
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Thank You for your kind comments and your insightful contribution to the debate on this important issue.

Gold medal for this story and for your penetrating insights into the human condition, the problems that explode in peoples' lives due to inadequate mental health facilities, and the waste of human resources due to simple and inexpensive treatments not being available. Dave is a hero for having survived and for finding something that enables him to blossom. And so are you, Dex.<br />
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My friend Jack was a brilliant scientist whose moment of madness landed him in prison, in spite of being found not guilty due to insanity. For sixteen years he was incarcerated in maximum security. In the prison garden he found a creative outlet, growing fruit trees from pips he saved then topiaring them. He committed suicide in prison and then the truth came out, about the 500 hanging points in the forensic facility and the nonexistence of a psychiatrist. Much more to be told about this story, and I thank you Dex for having prompted it. XX B.

Thank You for your kind comment, AfeaWorld. I certainly try to be a good friend to the people with whom I share my real-world and online communities.

Wow great story you sound like a friend that every one could use. 2thumbs up for you

Thank You, Chas. Very kind of you to comment.

What a beautifull rich piece of writing, LOVED it!

Ummm... yes, tinksie, I confess: I got that low when I was a desperate Junkie. Maybe that's one explanation for the 'empathy' ? <br />
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I would make a hopeless member of a jury. The prosecution would tell us what a dirty dog the accused had been, and I would think: dirty dog! You shoud be put down!<br />
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And then the defense would explain the perpetrator's difficult childhood, their sense of alienation from society, and I woud think: poor puppy! Come here and have a cuddle!<br />
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Thank You for your comments.

I do so admire the way you can empathise with others....<br />
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rock bottom is a surreal place.....<br />
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ever wanted something bad enough to steal....??<br />
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anyone ever made you mad enough to kill.....??<br />
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judge lest ye be judged <br />
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<3 tink <3

Thank You for your taking the time to read Dave's story and to leave your thoughtful comments, watchfulsoul, frito414, Artemis17, OnlyRocky, Kurzemiete, GkateC, sodancewithme and AlternateSource, and apologies for having taken so long to respond to some of you.<br />
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You each make some telling points about the hypocrisy of our justice system, society's thirst for vengeance against those who have broken our laws, or the inate goodness of the human character -a testament, I believe, to the kinds of people who inhabit the corridors of EP.<br />
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In truth, I liked Dave from the moment I met him, and did not change that feeling when I learned his sad story. Despite his rather rough appearance, there was a strong sense of humility and humanity emanating from him, and it was not hard to accept that he was, in fact, more sinned against than sinning.<br />
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Thank You also to those who made kind comments about my writing. I have posted several more stories about Dave under this same group -some sad, some hopeful- and I hope you will do me the honour of reading them too.<br />
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Cheers, Dex

It's quite a touching story. Touching because it's a reality for so many. We can all make a moment of mistake - wrong - rage - hate, n the courses of your life can unravel. I keep questioning... Is punishment/prison really the best way to show us how to learn/make up for the wrong committed? Or does it in so many ways, make it worse?<br />
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I found this story to be quite sad, yet beautiful... I liked how you've showed how human we all are - no matter what has been done, achieved or wronged... at the bottom line of all our needs is that we all long to feel safe, respected and cared for.<br />
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Thanks for sharing.

People can and do change. I'm intrigued by your story and by your openness and your heart...if possible I hope you can continue to update us. Thanks very much! :)

:] if he were my friend and i knew him well i would feel the same way, the past is the past, and i for one having seem my family go through hell, hate the justice system.

Thanks so much for sharing. This story is beautiful and says alot about your character.

ambedextrous, you are truly a golden friend, what an incredible story! I love yours and others' comments, especially this one brough tears to my eyes'... we all change and grow throughout our lives, and noone deserves to be chained to their past.. Anyone who is determined to make positive changes in their lives -to start all over again at 50+,...deserves the support and trust of their community. "<br />
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*bows to you*<br />

This is the third story of yours that I've read... You're full of great stories, and I honestly am humbled each time I read one of your experiences. <br />
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I cannot cook, nor can I trust people as well as you do.<br />
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Thank YOU for sharing this. I think we all need a friend like you. One that SEES us, and also cooks for us =)

Wow. <br />
You are a very powerful writer and obviously an amazing friend. I wish you would write more, i just love your level of ex<x>pression with words.

A slice of perception for us all to consider.<br />
It is stories like this that cause me contemplate the finality of the "death penalty".<br />
The side of vengeance calls for, "An eye for an eye"<br />
The other side of the coin allows for "doing your time"<br />
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When soldiers kill, killing is excused, <br />
when criminals kill, there is a call for punishment.<br />
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I have a hard time defining the difference some times...<br />
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Nice story Dex, I enjoyed reading it...

Thank You, Polly! You are right that Dave is showing new parts of himself through his artworks. His enthusiasm in describing his pictures to me lit up his whole face! Who knows how different his life may have turned out if he had been able to access this form of self-ex<x>pression all those years ago?

Gosh! Thank You, Abbey! It is kind of you to say so. I like to think I am evolved and compassionate, but I hope I'm not unique!<br />
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You are right about prisons though. No matter how modern the facilities, most systems are antiquated and demonstrably ineffective and a large proportion of inmates suffers from one kind of mental illness or another. Whether their illness has contributed to the crimes for which they are incarcerated, or their incarceration has caused their mental illness is one of those chicken and egg issues.

What a great story, real food for thought. It is amazing, with all the advances that have been made in the mental health field, how antiquated and ineffective our prison system is. You are a uniquely evolved and compassionate soul.

Thank You, emrld! Hugs back at you!<br />
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You are right: Dave's debt has been repaid -with crippling interest. Personally, I believe there has been a huge over-payment, and he somehow deserves a refund. I guess that is one of the factors that motivate me: wanting to make up, in my own tiny way, for the excess of suffering Dave continues to endure.