07 March 2008

The smell of smoke and rain.

It isn’t so hard for me to imagine how he could drag the knife across is arm like he did. The wrist is such a sensitive and passionate part of the body, it seems only natural that’s where he’d choose to go first. I’ve seen all kinds of suicide attempts over the last few years and I think they are the patients I can identify with the most. They are the ones who have experience the brunt of life’s ugliness and have decided that they have had enough. I get that.

The thing about cutting, too, is that it gives something legitimate and physical to mourn. The lacerations are symbolic wounds giving eye to something much deeper and undefined. The pain of failure, uncertainty, disappointing your wife, failing your children, a myriad of deep passions not pursued – these all go unseen in a man’s heart until one day he cracks. A cut in the skin brings that to the surface.

“Talk to me,” I said.

“About what? There’s nothing to say.”

“Tell me about the cutting, the alcohol. Tell me about your day.”

As he shared about his delinquent son and disconnected marriage, there were a few things that stood out to me. One is that his hair and demeanor were remarkably like that of Gene Wilder – spry and unruly. The other thing I noticed was that his eyes smiled when he looked at me. A smile slowly climbed my face as I listened because I believed there was hope for him.

“You get it, don’t you?” he asked me, not in reference to anything he was saying.

“Yes, I do. I get it and I get you and I think you’re brilliantly normal,” I said. Oddly, I was saying this in a quiet room saturated with the smell of this peppermint schnapps soaked body. I was saying it to a man whose wrist were bandaged from self-inflicted wounds and I don’t think that makes him abnormal. I think that makes him broken and human.

I later took him outside for a cigarette and I listened, mostly, to the things he loved about his son – about the hopes he has for him one day. It was getting dark and the thunderstorm was at it’s peak when my eyes welled. It broke my heart to think how my life would have been different – even just for today – had he pressed down just a little bit harder. I took in the aroma of smoke and liquor and rain and I couldn’t help but think how this smell crossed me as perfect, just perfect.

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