There’s a young man in one of my classes who can’t seem to keep his mouth shut, especially when he really needs to, when the moment has long died and he no longer holds his audience of peers’ attention. When he realizes that the only person whose attention he has is the one person who is the voice of authority in the classroom — namely me — his tenor changes as does the nature of his delightful little game. It’s a strange phenomenon. It’s almost as if he’s continually picking at an already bleeding scab on someone else’s body, picking away at it until there is nothing left but a raw, pink indentation. To him, it makes no difference. He will continue to pick at it until a new scab is formed.
He knows perfectly well what he’s doing, and I think he enjoys it, even when there’s nothing there left to scratch. A couple of days ago, for example, he kept up with his steady stream of jabs and barbs, and I simply held up a palm towards his face, signaling that that was the end of his game for the day. For the last leg of the period, all ten minutes of it, I kept my hand up at him as he continued to pick at the emptiness. His classmates around him tittered. When class was over, one of them apologized for his behavior. I just shrugged it off as childishness, but I can’t help thinking it will never cease. It’s who he is. It’s how he was raised.
After Thursday, I won’t have to deal with him anymore, I don’t think. My little scab-picker, if anything, is sharp as a tack, and he’ll undoubtedly earn his degree — probably in something business-related because his daddy wants him to make a lot of money off the backs of the working poor — and he’ll get married to a wholesome middle-class girl who will quietly accept the nature of his constant scab-picking because that’s what she’s been conditioned to do as were all the women before her in her own family.
My friend and ex-roommate, now on the road to financial recovery, is apparently still “with” a lowlife scab-picker. That scab-picker is the primary reason why I’ve lost all respect for my friend. I used to be empathetic. Sometimes it’s very hard to find the strength to get rid of the pickers and let the new layer proliferate. I know this, having once been married to a scab-picker. It’s gotten to the point though where my friend’s picked scabs have become scars, and there’s nothing anyone can say or do to convince my friend that with the cycle of scab-picking comes fresh scars over old scars, and pretty soon, he will have none of his original skin left. He will be completely unrecognizable.
Scab-pickers like to have control over their picking. It’s routine, habit, routine, habit. Even worse, when the skin around the scab starts to itch as new skin is forming, the scab-picker vigorously scratches until blood seeps and infection occurs. My classroom scab-picker isn’t yet aware of the damage his picking will cause, mainly because, again, it’s habit and routine for him. He now picks though because he finds he enjoys it, that sense of control. I could sit him down in my office and show him what sort of damage routine scab-picking has done to me as well as other people I know who’ve let the worst sorts of scab-pickers in their lives. I could tell him stories of drug abuse to financial loss and homelessness to outright child murder. I could tell him about all of it, and what his future will consist of if he fails to change his behavior, but I know from experience there’s very little one can possibly do to help a scab-picker “recover.” They can’t be changed because, quite often, their own conscience is as raw and numb as the wounds they pick.
They’re simply nothing but scabs themselves.