Flashquake vol. 8.1
This guy might have been in his fifties. He was bald, with heavy lidded, protruding eyes and thick lips. His lips, cheeks, and neck were creased with smooth, heavy scars and scar tissue. The scars made him look fierce, like some bird of prey, but his smile was surprisingly gentle.
He was sitting beside me on a Friday night in this blues bar downtown on Second Avenue and we fell to talking between sets. First we talked music — blues — and then about his job as a handler at an animal hospital. Finally, I asked him how he had collected the scars, if he didn't mind talking about it.
"I'm what they call a cutter," he said. "A self-mutilator. I've had five plastic surgery operations on my face, and four more on my chest and legs. Do I mind talking about it? Hell, I've been on Oprah talking about it. I still do it, you know. I'm still what they call active, but it's much less often now."
The cutter smiled sweetly through lips marked by thin ropes of scar tissue.
"Don't look so amazed," he said. "It's just a way of coping. Life is a collection of personal obsessions, no? Followed by a series of reductions until you're just...gone."
I wanted to think about that, but before I could respond, he leaned in close, still smiling, and whispered, "Why do you stick around? What keeps you going? Children? Coke? Power? Is it sex?" He glanced down at my feet. "Italian shoes?"
Some evenings, when the day has been less than kind, the cutter comes to mind. The vision is always the same. I see him sitting alone in a straight backed chair in a bleak rented room. In front of him, I see a honed straight razor on a card table with a cheap oilcloth cover. I see a thick roll of paper towels on the table, and a bottle of antiseptic, and a honing strap.
I see him pick up the razor and put it down a dozen times, putting off the moment in voluptuous anticipation until he can wait no longer.
Then I see him begin to slice himself, slowly, lovingly, delicately, fine slice by fine slice, until he has rendered himself into so many pieces, so many tiny gossamer pieces, that he can no longer possibly give offense to man or God.