A Blessing Dressed in Scars

July 29, 2011
By , Clayton, NJ
My friend. My poor friend, misunderstood by his peers, unaccepted, unloved, unwanted by his parents. Abused as a child, malnourished. Taken into child services after his dad beat him nearly to death when he was four. A wide, jagged scar on his cheekbone reminds him of that day, a day that still haunts him in his dreams. What child could forget such terrors? What man could remain unaffected by the memory of being trapped without food and beaten like a diseased animal? Who wouldn't shutter at the thought? All of this leaves my friend defective. His temper is overly flamboyant, as are his moods. Bipolar, they call him. Defensive.

Of course, none of his anger problems go unnoticed. How could they in a high school? Always, they always have something to say. They find something to pick at. So naturally, they choose the quiet one, the one with the guarded look who hides behind his long gold hair. The one with the scars. Bad choice. My poor friend, victim of snarky comments that set him off, making his temper flare. Suspended every other week for fighting and injuring. He's no stranger to hitting things. People that like to throw comments should tread carefully if they should decide to throw them his way.

We've been friends since last year. That's a long time for him. He doesn't trust people. Another defect. Fiercely loyal to his few friends, so good to them, he chooses them carefully. I, the quiet, friendly girl, was lucky enough to avoid being overlooked. I approached him first, but anyone who knows Mike knows that he has to approach you. So after I got no where that first day, he seemed to have thought about it, and came to me a few days later. I trusted him enough to tell him everything by the second month. Mike, who has been hurt so many times, didn't begin opening to me for five months.

He told me everything, and I listened. He told me how his father abused him so monstrously. He told me that after being in foster care for a year, his aunt had found him when he was five, and about how they always moved around in her trailer, never quite settling. He confided in me his secrets. Things about how he got tangled with drugs. He told me how for so long, they were the only things tying him to the ground. He told me of the friends who encouraged his drug-enriched lifestyle and were wore than happy to join. He told me about how his anger management medicine, his ADHD medicine, and his sleeping medication reacted with some painkillers he took for a high, and he ended up in the ER for a week, half dead. He spoke of his fascination of pain and fire. He branded himself once, with a cigarette. He said it was cool to watch his flesh blacken.

He then told me about the cutting. His mind spiraling into a black abyss of pain and wordless screams that he could no longer struggle against until his hand closed around a razor blade and cut into the skin of his arm so that he could taste reality again. And again. And again. That was when he cut an artery. He was in the ER two days that time.

As he confided more and more of his soul to me, I truly see how terrible the world can be for a person. I understand how people can find it soothing to physically harm themselves, as terrible as it is. I fear for my friend. My poor friend.

To think about all that haunts him, all the terrible things he is tied to, makes you picture him so negatively, depressed and sinister. But everything he tells me takes time to register in my mind because it seems so unlikely, Sure, Mike has scars and carries with him a guarded look, but otherwise, you really wouldn't know unless he told you all that he had told me, seeing the pain in his expression as he spoke. To everyone, especially his few friends, Mike was -- wonderful. Indescribable. His gold hair and green eyes made him visible. He was tall and lean and not hard to notice. His smiles, so few and far between, quite literally made you stop and marvel. Straight teeth, and it just lit up his entire face, it was unbelievably gorgeous. He saved those smiles well. I saw it once a month if I was lucky.

Mike was so warm. He made you feel like the center of attention, and like you belonged there. He made you feel loved. It's terrible that he couldn't trust anyone enough to let in as much love as he gave out. His life might be better.

Mike finally trusted one girl enough to let in. Kayla. She was the girl that was lucky enough to be Mike's new girlfriend. What we didn't know then was how flighty and unfaithful Kayla could be. I wish we would've known then.

Mike caught her cheating on him a few months after they got together. It devastated him. He truly loved Kayla, and she betrayed him. He cried for hours. He locked himself in the bathroom at school that day, refusing to come out. As proud as he was, no one could see him cry. That was also the day he started cutting himself again.

A few weeks later, Mike and Kayla's relationship was still rocky. Mike was healing, but still cutting when he felt too much. Luckily he had me and a few friends to keep it from getting bad. We were all praying that he wouldn't go back to drugs and self mutilation. We tried to help him get back to himself.

Mike didn't come to school the next day. Or the day after, or the day after that. He wouldn't answer his phone or any messages we would send him. I got so worried that I had to drive passed his house and make sure he was okay. The house looked empty, and no one answered when I knocked. Now I was scared.

Days pass, and despite our efforts, Mike appears to have vanished. One morning, I went to class and was just sitting down when I heard my name being whispered from the doorway. It was Mike. Class hadn't started yet, so I went to the door and he pulled me into the hallway.

"Mike! Oh my gosh, where have you been? I've missed you so much, I was starting to..." It was then that I realized that his eyes were filled with tears that looked so close to spilling over. The look on his face was that of a burning agony that I could never come close to being able to grasp the depth of. It torchered me to try to imagine what he had been dealing with without his friends to help him through it.

"Mike, please talk to me. What happened? What can I do to help?" I said in a rushed voice when he didn't say anything. Somehow I wound up with my arms around him. He didn't hug me back like he usually would have. I backed up and looked at him. He reached for my hand. I let him take it. He held it and still didn't say anything.

I was almost sick with worry by this point. I was so scared. My eyes were full of tears. They spilled over and in a shaky voice, I said,
"Mike, I'm here. Please. This is agonizing, helplessly looking at you, not knowing how I can help you. Why do you look like that?"

Slowly, he looked at me, squeezing my hand. His brimming eyes could barely focus. The first tears began to roll down his cheeks. Gently, I brushed them away.

"Mike, please."

He let go of my hand and lifted the sleeve to his jacket. My breath caught in my throat and my head spun. The underside of his forearm looked like it got caught in a meat mincer. There were so many thin, half-healed vertical slices that the skin between them was nearly as thin as the cuts themselves. Running up the length of his arm, past the creases of his elbow and disappearing under his jacket to his upper arm were seven or eight wide, deep gashes.

"I'm not getting Kayla back." He whispered the words as if they were his own death sentence. With that, he pulled his sleeve back down, turned on his heels and ran down the empty hallway. I watched him with tears streaming down my face until he turned the corner. I stood until the bell rang. Instead of reading the assigned text, I stared at a page that may as well have been blank and contemplated that fact that one of my best friends had tried to kill himself. Shining, proud, strong Mike, had almost been lost to the crushing misery around him. Thinking of the, trapped in misery of my own for a friend that I loved to dearly, I cried.

I didn't see Mike again. He didn't answer my messages, phone calls, e-mails, anything. I was terrified.

He tried to kill himself! He was almost gone from my life forever, and I had no idea!

The thoughts of what had almost been haunted me, even in my sleep. I couldn't take it. I had no idea where he was now. For all I knew, he had tried again, and succeeded. What if I never saw him again?!

And I never did. At least, not yet, six and a half months later. I got one e-mail. He e-mailed me saying that he was okay. He's at a school where he's taken care of. I'm not sure what that means, and I'm devastated that he's gone, but I'm glad he's safe.

Some people just can't outrun their demons, and it doesn't take much for them to be set off. Mike taught me to always take care in how I act around strangers.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about Mike. I pray for his safety. I pray that wherever he is, he's taken care of and happy. I hope one day soon, I'll find him again, and stay with him. Because you can't forget someone like Mike. They are blessings. If you find someone like him, keep them around, because a true friend doesn't come around every day.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

BreeTayler This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm
This article is.... Heart warming. It istear jerking. It's ... Simply incredible. Incredible because it's true. And incredible because I can relate. I say that a lot. But this I can relate the most to. I'm glad "mike" is doing well, I'm glad you are also:) ... And I hope it will stay that way. God bless.
Catiestar replied...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm
Thank you so much, I cannot tell you how much that means to me. God bless :)
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