He always wore long sleeves, even in the hot weather. Those who noticed speculated that he might be a junkie. The truth was that he was embarrassed by his arms – the pale inner flesh was criss-crossed with scars. He felt that these betrayed his weakness that they showed him up as a self indulgent hysteric. They were made many years before, but were as livid as they ever were – great white gashes that ran across and down his arms like highways.
His self inflicted scars were constant reminders of the boy that he once was – full of sadness and self loathing. Some were punishment scars; others were genuine attempts to end his life. He often felt that his old arms no longer fitted the man he had become – the defect cicatrices were the property of a young man, a young man who had in fact died a long time ago.
He had often tried to forget his youthful manic slashings. His arms would not let him. He had tried to tell himself that the scars were in fact the signs of struggle – a struggle he had won. Had he not prevailed over adversity? Was he not still alive and kicking? It was true. Like the gnarled old bark of an ancient tree his scars were a sign of triumph, but how do you convey that to others? He kept his sleeves rolled down – dreading the looks he received if ever his naked arms were exposed.
Making love with a new partner was a particular minefield. They invariably asked him about the scars – then would begin a lengthy discussion and an inevitable distance – his sanity suspect from there on in. But there was one girl who asked no questions. She kissed his scars and held him close for the longest time. At first he was mortified, but the gesture was so pure it melted his heart. No words were ever spoken of his disfiguring wounds. He felt like the man he wanted to be – she gave him that. Yes, she gave him that and it was precious.