(This piece contains triggers and is simply and only fiction, meant to describe a reality ignored in many walks of our lives. Talk to your friends, they are real with emotion.)
They wore long sleeves in the middle of a hot summer day. No one ever realized why. Well, at least they believed there was no reason for anyone to ever question why. But they did. They could still feel the flayed edges of tissue that rubbed against the cotton of a sweatshirt forever reminding them of last night’s ordeal. Or maybe the night before, or last hour while sitting in a family dinner, forearms under the table, the knife …
It really doesn’t matter when a person chooses to slice open their skin to find relief, what matters more is the reason behind the action. A cutter isn’t always an automatic candidate for suicide, though often people might confuse the two. If you see a teenager, a young adult, an elder with horizontal slashes on their arms, some odd scratches on their skin that seem out of place, it would seem they are acting upon a personal desire to deaden the pain. Their actions are wanting to shut down the dialogue i their head telling them the only way they might find relief from their own persecution is to cause immediate damage. The frustration though is that no matter how deep into their own psyche they travel about finding a solution, the more likely it is that self abuse will become a necessary alternative.
He gathered his books for the day, pulled on his sleeves one more time and headed out the door, joining nearly hundreds of others leaving university for the afternoon, another night of loneliness waiting for something to change, anything to stop the beating of a drum in his head that would return every night, until by around 9 pm the choice became exclusive again, favorite pen knife in hand and a slow deliberate cut – enough to feel the skin break as slight crimson drew from his wrist until as his courage grew a long line of inner turmoil ran from his watch line to his elbow, the blood not enough to cause issue, just visible enough for him to realize a goal had been met. There is no pain, only a fascination with digging the tip of his knife deep enough in his skin to draw blood. Let’s do it again, or should we stop would be the next thought going through his mind. But for the moment, a bit of relief, like sticking a needle in his arm and shooting up a narcotic. Breathe and sigh, breathe and sigh, no need for tears, just the action itself was enough to let go of the fury and relive another moment of sanity from the pain.
The pain of the cutter isn’t actually the damage of a knife on naked skin. The pain is in their mind, so threatening to their well-being that no other choice can be made except to take action, and the secretive nature of it is enough to suggest a perilous pattern of self-destruction is difficult to stem unless some alternative is found. Like anything, with practice comes a comfort level with risk, and the cutter eventually becomes so clever, their lifestyle and public image will depend upon their personal prowess. Even a best friend might become shocked to hear their close buddy is actually damaging themselves on a daily basis with sharp objects. Often that best friend knows they are struggling, but does not have enough evidence to ever completely manage the horrific consequence of the cutter’s actions.
One night after a particularly arduous night of study while mulling his rejection at the local square earlier in the evening, he decided he might take a few pain killers and just have a party with a little bit of scotch. He turned on an episode of some melodramatic Lifetime movie to help enhance the mood – his goal was to be so laden with bad feelings he’d have no choice to take action. Tonight the drugs and alcohol pushed him a little further. Tonight he would test his ability to push. He put aside the pen knife and reached for the box cutter he found left on the sill of the construction wing at school. He pocketed it unconsciously a few days earlier thinking it would be a useful tool for something. He had no idea what and at the time he didn’t consciously think about tonight’s action, but the subconscious can really play games with the stability of a fragile mind. He took the boxcutter in his right hand, in his left grabbed a couple of pills and with a smile threw them in his mouth and slammed his finger of scotch neatly poured and waiting.
Drawing the blade against his wrist, he first just drew a line, the white scratch of a surface lance, sort of like sketching a piece of art. Next he went back again and went a little deeper, surprising himself with how easily he could penetrate the skin, still safe, still just playing with its depth. He set the box cutter down for a moment to watch a bit of the show, his eyes drowsy and becoming a little bit more confused, a pleasant fix of the drugs, alcohol and the action. At one point he almost fell asleep and eyes open, chuckled at how ridiculous it would look if his roommate came out in the morning and found his sweatshirt pulled up beyond his elbow, a bottle of scotch, his prescription bottle and a box cutter loosely dangling in his sleeping hand. He was alert now, and returned to the scratch. This time his courage was strong – he thought about all of the pain of his day, the weeks, the years, the childhood loss, and dug a little deeper, surprising himself again, the blood easily drawn, this time going further he knew he might need to apply some bandage eventually, but the fascination took him further. Rather than continue he started a new line, this time not playing, this time letting the slice dive deep right away, so easily finding blood he became a bit reckless. He became drowsy, the cut still in motion, blade in his wrist, all the frustration of his childhood well in place drawing his hand further up his wrist.
He remembered telling his friend earlier that night that he was struggling to find a reason to stay in school, he felt no connection with anyone down in the square. His buddy asked him to hang but all he could remember was grabbing his book-bag and letting the momentum of tossing it over his shoulder pull him alone out the door into the naked loneliness of the night.
He suddenly began fading into a dream, blood now pooling on the inside of his left side, not realizing he was no longer in control.
The life and times of a well trained cutter.
© Scott F Savage 2/2020