The Reason I Couldn’t Help

Posted: 28 August 2009 in therapy
Tags: , , ,

Folks, this could be considered graphic.

Sometimes, I’m a pretty bad wife. Occasionally, I’ll insist the chicken is still frozen so that we have to have pizza instead. And, every so often, I’ll stick my head out from a  book and say, “Why is the cat meowing?” without even checking to see if he has food. I know, dastardly. I don’t even make up for it in other ways. You see, I don’t like to touch the wet laundry unless there’s lotion nearby and I don’t like to fold things that are inside out. I don’t like to unpack things and I don’t like to talk about key racks, picture frames, closet organizers or decor. But, at least I do these thing every so often. Throwing her a bone, so to speak. Like I said, I’m a pretty bad wife.

I don’t think I’d had a single panic attack until I rode a collapsing deck down a couple of stories. After that, creaking wood sent me into heart-fluttering shakes. But otherwise? Totally okay. Totally okay in all areas except, apparently, disco rice. I would link that, but I’m not up for whatever images might be behind that Google search. No, seriously.

I think I’ve been storing up panic. Pre-deck crunch, I went to Africa a reletively undamaged person. In fact, I’d say my interests ran to the macabre and that I had a stronger stomach for gore than most. And then I spent one very hot afternoon in an African morgue. Culturally, it was fascinating, though that word implies a lightheartedness I don’t intend.

A crowd of women in colorful fabric crouched around a small set of steps in the morgue courtyard. The courtyard itself was pretty, trees and benches dotted a walled cement area framed on one side by tall concrete and the other by a low L-shaped building. The women wailed. Isn’t that what you’re meant to do when mourning? It’s not really crying anymore, it’s a ripping sort of hollow sob that rises and falls with your breath and your memories. I watched them cluster and mourn while I was taking a break from watching a body.

This was on the heels of several mundane things. The stereo from the embassy truck was stolen after delivering the coffin. My boss yelled at me on the cell phone for not being able to be two places at once. I watched dried leaves drift on the pavement. It also followed some firsts for me.  Speaking with the tender-voiced manager of the morgue about why we would need to use our U.S. coffin. Explaining why someone needed to stay with the body. Learning about the draining mechanism in the steel lining of a coffin.

Even now, I’m unable to give eloquence to that afternoon. There was blood in swirls on the floor. And, there were bodies. More than I expected. Stacked and carried in ways I hadn’t expected. A smell that never faded, even after hours. And of course, there were bugs. This is not CSI’s cool, dimly lit morgue. This is a bright, summery place with no air conditioning and wide open doors and windows. Honestly, it was easier to stare at the tiled walls than at the waiting body. Or worse, the wide hallway with a slide-show of atrocity. At least, it was easier until I realized that I wasn’t dizzy so much as the tile was moving. And that the small, white bugs responsible for the movement were everywhere.

You know, that’s all I can say today about that day. And it’s the first time I think I’ve put it into writing. Shared with someone who wasn’t my partner or a therapist. I’m not sure how I developed the idea that the larvae exclusively populated one-hour crime shows, read-in-a-day detective thrillers and third world countries. How privileged to assume wealth is an inoculation.

One weekend before we moved in, we left a trash bag with discarded sandwich wrappings on the floor of our new kitchen. When we came back a few days later, I picked up the nearly empty bag to toss with the rest of the painting detrius. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what was under the bag. I can’t anyway.  The 20 minutes of sobbing and shaking that followed was enough to turn D. pale. That was a real panic attack. It put my issues with cracking wood to shame. She cleaned up the mess and soaked the kitchen in chemicals. I don’t know how long it took or how awful it was. I’m not even sure where I went in my mind as it happened.

Last night, we discovered our outdoor trashcan had picked up unwanted visitors. First a few, then a lot. I think we’re both happy that I wasn’t the one who discovered it. Regardless, I also wasn’t the one who dealt with it. If, by dealing, you mean dousing the interior with dichotomous earth and returning, green, to the house with this statement “Let’s throw out the whole can.” I can’t help but wonder if she’d be less squicked if I hadn’t turned the first instance into weeping, startling panic. But they are gross, and I don’t blame her for wanting to spare the trash collectors.

Summary?  She is amazing and I am damaged.  I’m the lucky one.

  1. linaria says:

    I. For a long time certain things would make me shake: a certain kind of light from a particular direction, a certain tint of white paint, the hollow sound of feedback when someone blows into a microphone. Specific things imperceptible and unexplainable to others. Being so unspecific, so improbable in the context of ordinary life, I found these things best dealt with in writing (textual exorcism?). Somehow it gives them definition, manageability.

    II. Awhile back I took a basic entomology class which involved, among other things, identifying the juvenile forms of many different insects. Trust me, if my classmates were any indication of the general public (actually, they weren’t–these were kids who intended to make a living outdoors among growing things) you are not the only person who dissolves in the presence of such critters. So what if your reasons are different.

    III. As for your qualities as a wife and that last sentence which barely deserves mention in this comment…yeah, sorry, no. That is in no way a logical conclusion to the content of this post.

    • backlist says:

      that’s a lovely comments – it makes me feel more comfortable, though I wish we could both completely exorcise those demons. I suppose we’re all a bit damaged.

    • backlist says:

      that’s a lovely comments – it makes me feel more comfortable, though I wish we could both completely exorcise those demons. I suppose we’re all a bit damaged.

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