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.
* * * * * *
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.