The Woman in the Wallpaper–Part One

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Photo credit: Lucas Mobley/Redding Record Searchlight.

I am posting this autobiographical essay in parts because the original essay was written as such. I wrote this in response to a course requirement in the Advanced Composition course at Simpson University.

Every detail, even the seemingly miniscule, is true to the best of my recollection. The exception is the name change of my fiancé­­­­––now and forevermore known as Frank.

The Woman in the Wallpaper ––Part One

The vexing sound of the 3:30 a.m. alarm trumpets through the dark morning air. I groan and pull the duck-down comforter around my chin. My fiancé, Frank, jumps up like a jack-in–the–box and heads into the kitchen. I rouse from a groggy fog and aim for the bathroom. My head throbs and I search through the muddled mist as to why when I remember the festivities of the evening involved beer­­––a lot of beer. I cherish the sweet, therapeutic bouquet of brewing coffee wafting into the room, ‘go-juice’ that promises to counteract the cobwebby fog.

I stand before the mirror in the dimly-lit room of the porcelain god and begin slathering flesh-colored goo over the source of my identity. I stare at the face in the mirror.  Everyone says I am gorgeous, but I don’t believe them.  I wonder what I would do if anything happened to my face.

“That’s a weird thought,” I mutter to the reflection as I click off the light and head to the promised land of java.

* *  *  *

The fuel-tanker’s roaring motor is silenced as Frank brings the truck to a stop at the Whiskeytown Visitor Center. He hops from cab to ground, not bothering to use the two stairsteps, and begins to check the tires––tires carrying nearly 8,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel.

We had met as employees of SST Oil, Inc., a wholesale gasoline and diesel company. We discovered we had attended the same high school, but he was two grades behind me. I knew of him, we knew many of the same people, but we ran in different crowds. I was a band-geek and an aspiring journalist, and he was of the cowboy-party crowd.  I remembered seeing his picture in the year book because the class that put the book together thought it would be funny to list his name as a brand of beer, a name similar to his.

At SST Oil, Inc., I work as a bookkeeper, billing fuel stations for gallons of diesel, gasoline, and kerosene delivered by our drivers.  Frank is one of our drivers.

I hear the thwack of the tire thumper pounding the tires. Frank whacks each tire––all eighteen of them, a legally required and routine safety check.  I have a sudden, all-consuming urge to get out––and stay out. But this urge remains mute and mum.

Frank directs the rig back onto the pavement, West onto Highway 299, a highway buzzing with holiday traffic as we head to the Weaverville BP fuel station.  Frank’s conversation takes a weird turn: he talks of recent nightmares of crashing the tanker.

“Well, I hope it’s not today.”

                                                                         *  * *  *

I fight through a fog of another kind as I am rousing from a medically-induced coma. I am told I have been under for two months.  I fade in and out. Morphine-laden dreams.

Awareness slowly ebbs in to stay. Was it real? Was I the headline: WOMAN HAS EMERGENCY TRACHEOTOMY IN TACO BELL?  Pain and tears are the bane of my existence, an existence nearly extinguished.

Nurses bossing, machines beeping, and laughter from the night-shift  are the sounds that fill my day.  The face on the wall glares at me––we face off––one without blemish, mocking.  A red luminescent hand swings around 360 degrees, 1, 440 times a day. I wonder if this ‘hand’ gets as tired as I do from the constant vigil.

I can’t speak or move.  I lay in bed with the video playing––what happened; when it happened; and why it happened.

A year later the official report reads that a tire blew out. The blown tire caused the truck and trailer to veer into the ditch. Frank fought to guide it back onto the road, but the weight of the fuel shifted, throwing the truck and trailer into chaos. In the process, the trailer split in two, sparking against pavement. We flipped and rolled across the road into a small ravine. Flames engulfed and surrounded us before the truck stopped twisting, turning.

I lay with pain, tears and memories: hearing Frank say that we’ve got to get out; Frank breaking the windshield with the tire thumper; how he scampered up over the dashboard and out the tiny opening of shattered windshield. A far greater pain pierces and splinters like the windshield at the memory that he bolted and left me to fend for myself.

I replay scene after scene: I think of how I stayed in the midst of bone-penetrating heat, staring at the golden-red flames around me­­––a moment so surreal––I am starring in a Hollywood film. I replay the panic of knowing I would be burned trying to get to the road; I remember thinking of my grandchildren; thinking that if I was going to die, I would die trying; I recall reciting the mantra– stop, drop and roll– and I remember the rocky ground as I begin crawling army-style up the steep- sided ravine.

The sound of a harsh, double tap at the doorway jolts me back into real time. It’s Nurse Kate. She scolds me for crying. Coming down from morphine accentuates emotions, and I am on the downswing. I say that if you were a burn victim, you’d be crying too.

“You are not a victim. You are a survivor,” she chides.

Quiet on the Blogging Front: The Happy Soul

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It’s tricky navigating through the junk.

 

I’m back after a hiatus full of funk, junk and many deliveries to the local transfer station, formerly referred to as THE DUMP in childhood days.

 

 

 

We mark our days by events. Having surpassed the 19th anniversary of the worst day of my life, I’ve been in a funk, a funk dark and deep enough that writing didn’t seem to bring joy.

In an attempt to prod my way out, I’ve been clawing and pawing through useless junk in my home.

Sorting through things I once valued, I find the hardest part is making decisions: stay or go? Sometimes it’s really tough.

Asking myself two questions helps speed the process and eliminates much hedging: “Has this thing served me?” and if the answer is in the affirmative I ask: “Will this continue to be beneficial to me on a regular basis?”

Murphy’s Law says that the thing I stored for 15 years and never used, will be the exact item I need in two weeks’ time. Such is life.

The new rule is that if I bring something new into my home, something old has to go.

Paralleling this physical activity, I’ve encountered meaningless emotions, thoughts, attitudes, perspectives and memories tied to these things. I am actively exposing the crap to daylight, dusting them off and asking the same two questions above. These things haven’t always served me well. Thus, the rule applies: bringing a new (positive and edifying) thought, emotion, etc., into my soul requires the old must go.

This requires active, purposeful and constant care. I suspect it’s going to take a lifetime. A healthy soul is a happy soul.

Excerpt #2 (1000 Deaths)

Burn injuries are not like a broken bone that once healed, can be concealed by flesh. There is no place to hide, no protective shell to retreat beneath. Four days from this writing, July 4th, will be my 19th burn-a-versary.  There are many deaths from burn injuries: 1000 surely seems exaggerated, unless you are the burn survivor. Below is another excerpt from my story:

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A machine emits a tone, flat and hopeless.  The never-ending pain engulfs me as an ocean-wave swallows a tug boat. I flutter like a blue-bird and I gain a bird’s-eye view while I watch my body convulse beneath nurses and doctors, frantic, scurrying like a horde of bees, blue and white.

A tiny beam, the width of a pen-light, shafts through the ceiling and I move toward the light. Someone yells clear!  I back away, drifting through the stars until I shudder back to the room, shrouded in black, cold air, and am resting on the pillowy mattress of  the bed.  I think I hear the crowd release the breath they have held in, or is it my own?

The night sky surrounds me, and a glow brightens as stars begin to rise. Suddenly, one rises beneath me and lifts me high on its beam. I am fringed in majesty. The warmth of light surges, begins to melt and meld me as I fold inside out like an elephant-shaped origami. The elephant sinks into nothingness.

A star glides, slow and sure, behind me until it circles around my left and is facing me. Two beings, transfigured, and perched atop the star engage in sober conversation. I see the Maker of the moon and I hear the voice of Job.

“Quash the day I was born.  Delete it from the books. Rescind the day of my birth, bury it in deep darkness, shroud it with the fog, and swallow it by the night,” Job laments.

“Can you stop the thunder with a shout like I can? Or can you pull in the great sea beast, Leviathan, with a fly rod? Can you lead Behemoth, most powerful and magnificent of all beasts, by a tether like a lamb such as I?” the Moon Maker asks and adds, “Show me your stuff. Let’s see what you are made of.”

I awaken to a darkened room, empty. I hear the rhythmic whoosh of the ventilator at my side––my lifeline­. I close my swollen eyelids and return to the stars.

silhouette of trees and mountain under blue starry sky
Photo by Sindre Strøm on Pexels.com

 

A Polarity in Self-Awareness

Oh, the faces I make while moving through the events of an ordinary day. Something tells me I am not alone.

My trail-walking face: smile, wave, greet passers-by with a cheery “Good Morning.”

My traffic face: scowl, growl, and glare with shoulders scrunched up to my ears and hands raised, outspread to each side,  greet fellow drivers with a screech “What the hay are you thinking?”

Stop. The. Insanity.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com 

 

The Abyss

Dear Jaydan,

Your mother prepared a wonderful tribute
to her beloved son:

I ‘ve enclosed a note to you––

You didn’t know how much
you would be missed.
You didn’t know of our unfailing love for you.
Your mother, your father,
Your brothers and your sisters,
Your Gram and many others, too.

This abyss.

Every day
We think of you––
Of what could have,
What should have,
What would have,
Been.

This abyss.

I flew in a jet plane to see you
The day you were born.
Your sweet, tiny face shadowed
With my father’s image.

You were three weeks old
When you took your first jet ride
1,000 miles to your Gram’s house.
You were the tiniest of visitors.

They called you Jay-Jay the Jet Plane.
I called you Cricket.

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The Cricket and the Frog (photo credit: Jessica Martinusen)

I could not see you, but I could hear your teeny voice.

It was in a stupid moment, a cursed choice.
that will not allow us your face to see.
Let us hear you.

Many thoughts are of you this day––
Of what could have,
What should have,
What would have,
Been.

Your 18thbirthday.

With much love,

Gram-Gram,
from the abyss.

Excerpts from 1000 Deaths

I am posting an excerpt from writings I began several months ago. It is a true story, written in the present tense, of life after burns, yet the story in its entirety does tells of the accident,  subsequent hospitalization and such. The title 1000 Deaths is a temporary, working title at this point.

 

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Dr. Greenhalgh, my burn doctor next to me in August 2102 at UCDavis Medical Center, Sacramento, California.

            1000 Deaths

I stand proudly before the oven in our newly constructed house. We’ve moved into it three days ago and this is our first home-cooked meal––roast beef with roasted carrots and red potatoes. I secretly gloat at the memory that as a licensed Real Estate agent, I earned a commission for buying my own home.

I open the door for a peek at the goods and I wheeze from the heat-blast, and I’m shaken and tossed. Like a soldier with PTSD, I am standing in the blaze screaming for Frank.* He tells me my hair is smoldering, but it is my hand I notice, melted and deformed.

Someone yells, and I about-face to find off-duty firefighters suiting-up––but they stop, frozen. The fuel tanker explodes, and they shed their gear. They tell me to lie down on the sizzling asphalt.

Once there, they douse me with saline. I am howling, animal-like for more. They say they are out and I plead for water. But they say they can’t because water might cause the burns to become infected.  I yell that I don’t care.

I see the treetops burning as I lie on the asphalt, waiting for my seven-winged bird.   I’m reassured the Medi-Vac helicopter is on its way and I hope. Black smoke floats higher and higher above the flames.

I see Frank on the ground to my right. He has arms in the air and my stomach churns at the sight of the skin falling from his forearms. Rows of vehicles line the road, watching, waiting for the danger to clear, gawking at the unlucky ones. I turn my face to the left and a camera is inches away.  Behind the camera, a woman is crouching and flashes light the air. I yell for her to stop. How dare she?

And I begin to yowl.

The sound of Frank’s footsteps on the hardwood floor and his worried cry catapults me into my world of roast beef, carrots and potatoes.

“What happened?” he demands, “Are you alright?’

It’s nothing dear, wash up, and please, set the table. Dinner is almost ready.”  I turn to smile at him then turn away and wipe the tears away with a dish towel.

*This character’s name has been changed.

 

 

My Little Town––My Earworm

My father, 81, still lives on the property he acquired from his father in the mid 1950s. I visit him on a weekly basis, typically Sunday afternoons.

On my most recent Sunday visit, I decided to listen to some oldies, via Pandora, on the Simon & Garfunkel station.  My current town is about 20 miles from my childhood home, so I was enjoying quite a few oldies and the pleasant memories associated with each song.  As I turned into the long drive way, “My Little Town” (Simon & Garfunkel) began to play. That song has earwormed its way into my head for the past week.

A midweek visit was necessitated–– Dad needed my help with some banking back in my little town. Coincidentally, “My Little Town” repeated in splendid reverie, as I turned onto his little lane.  As I wailed the lyrics of the chorus, “nothing but the dead of night back in my little town,” my curiosity compelled me to Google the lyrics to the full song. (I’m a lyrics kind of girl.)

I was stupefied to learn that for the past 43 years, I’ve been belting out incorrect words. According to lyrics.com, the correct lyrics read “nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town.”

My bad.

Dead and dying seems to be more appropriate of late, as in the past two years my little town has lost my mother and three aunties, two of whom I was especially close to.

The lyrics of the song seems to imply nothing productive comes from their little town: whereas, my little town has lost four bastions of strength, grace, faith and character.

I prefer to keep my version. Maybe its born from habit of 43 years. Maybe it’s plain stubbornness.  So, I’ll keep on keening “nothing but the dead of night” safely within the confines of my little black car on my way to my little town.

This Old House

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This Old House

This old house rests in

obscurity at the elbow,

on the narrow dusty road,

battle-scarred and war-weary,

shutters dangle at the windows,

flesh-colored paint peeling, contorting,

indifferent, detached curiosity,

dismissed, not worth a second glance

glimpses of the occupant, a rarity.

A second glance is warranted,

Oh, look past the pummeled shell

that once housed a celebrated belle.

Old Robert’s road diverged I’m told

my travel does not have the pleasure,

but a path, straight and narrow,

briar-patched, imperfect measure.

The beautiful ones, a club I’m expelled,

I long to be reunited––really, do I?

Battle-scarred, war-weary, dilapidated,

houses one who Stands Above, yet nigh.

My Maker sees what lies beneath,

that’s his name-–Moon Maker.

Will my humanity be pondered?

Look past the pummeled shell,

for what exists within the crust.

I am human.

I am pummeled.

To some, it doesn’t matter.

What I Like About You

I stumbled across this short piece while putting together a portfolio of my writing at Simpson University, as required for my Senior Seminar course.

I penned this after my husband and I parted ways, as a  self-soothing, count-your-blessings, find the positive, excerise.

 

What I Like About You
Good News! I like you again
And here are a few reasons why.

I loved the sound of the slamming door
As you theatrically stormed through;
Oh, what a wonderful sight!

The empty space where shirts hung a’ fore
The remote has my name on it,
And the DVR has quality shows,
The Passat rests neatly in the garage

Reflecting quietly  with my morning joe,
And reading pages uninterrupted,
Singing and dancing to Pandora,
Your silence is more than golden,
It is all jewels wrapped together.

Re-decorating walls and so much more,
Premium air quality control,
Cooking and eating for one,
Going where, when, and how long.
Life, I must say is good as it is,
I like you again
Now that you’re gone.