“…all that was left was a house covered in fingerprint dust…” Buried. Kate Watterson
Seems benign enough right?
My day was filled with stress and I retreated to the tub after my run. It is a normal routine. The books vary, usually something dropped off by my mom. This book was no different. A typical murder mystery/police procedural type thriller. Detectives chasing a cop killer. So as I flipped the page and explored the beginnings of a new chapter I came across that line. I did not even have time to understand the importance.
In a blink I was standing in a small second story apartment. My apartment circa 1996. The slightly dingy off white trim was coated in a gun-metal grey dust. The stairway, the door frames, the counters. The phone. I stood there looking in the stillness. My mind was taking in the aftermath of the evening prior. there was no one emotion that stood out, they all descended fast and hard. I can’t say without warning since returning to the scene I knew would be difficult. I do not recall anyone with me. Just me and the steps leading up. Tracing wispy trails of memory from the attack. The vivid feeling of terror and relief combined as I pictured him stumbling down away from me. My hand outstretched ready to push him away down the stairs were he to turn back. The cool wood of the door as I rested my forehead against it once I had flipped the deadbolt. I didn’t cry. I just stood leaning in the door. It was as if the pause button was hit and my world suddenly stopped turning. If not for my racing heart and cold sweat one might be lulled into thinking nothing had happened at all. I don’t know how long I rested against the door. Though it was a while. Shock does strange things to a person. You don’t think straight. You can’t make decisions. but most of all there is this strange stillness. As if ceasing to move might somehow make everything okay again. I did not wish to revisit the past while enjoying a book in the tub. I can’t say I ever truly flash back to that time period. I do not do that, so it came a quite the surprise. Instead of recoiling and running I left myself there in my mind. I wandered thru the rooms. One by one. I saw where the finger print dust marred the cheap paint job. I remembered standing in that small apartment surrounded by far too many people. Too much noise. I wanted to be left alone but they just kept asking questions. “What did he touch?” over and over. “The phone..” and on and on. All the while the stifling heat of a New York summer finally spawning a nasty storm. The lightning and thunder interrupting their questions as the power failed. Now we all stood in the pitch dark with only the lightning illuminating the space. I remember so clearly the long shadows climbing the white walls as the patrol cops flipped on their mag lights. It was a strange scene. All the while I had been wishing they’d just leave yet when they finished I was terrified of the prospect of being alone in the blackness. The last of the lightning and thunder was pulling away as I ran through the rain to my car. They pulled out and I watched the patrol cars start their sweep on the street. Just as I had rested my head on that door I found myself doing the same in my truck. I left my head on the steering wheel. I couldn’t think. I didn’t know what to do. The racing panic and fear was gone leaving behind a hole. Nothing. I could feel nothing at all. Everything felt alien and strange. The familiar grooves of the dash and the warm sticky leather under my thighs barely registered. It was blankness. In that lost place I left myself. I never revisited it until the other night. I have no idea why. Why now? after all these years this is what came back to me. In such crisp detail. I’m not even sure how to explain it. Sure I can replay the sensations and memories of him and his rough hands. I can revisit the frigid police station where they spent forever taking my statement. I can forcibly send my mind back in time at will. That I can do if asked. It isn’t the other way around. Those memories and sensations don’t hijack a perfectly good relaxing moment. Not for so long. I thought I had left them behind. Like so much in my life nothing is what it seems. It is never done. Nor is it ever truly behind us. I had been lulled into a sense of complacency after 100’s of episodes of Law and Order SVU, and thousands of rape scenes. Countless movies, books and shows. Never a flicker on the radar. Guess my job of burying it all was pretty good. Am I finally less guarded and defended as Beatrice suggested? Was this just a random episode? Though I did not find it frightening I still sense a bit of gun-shyness at the prospect of another out of the blue transport into the long-buried past.I can’t account for the time lost while wandering back in that apartment. I couldn’t tell you if it was 5 minutes or 50. I think my fear is based in the lack of control not the confronting of painful memories. I have so many of those they have become friends not foes at this point. Like so much else it appears I’ll need to process this as well. Therapy will continue forever it seems. The timing is awful. I have so much going on already I really didn’t need my past to come and pitch a tent. Though I think it came back for a reason. I’m hesitant to just ignore it or bury it again. I do not know the reason it returned though it might be important. Can I juggle all that is weighing on my mind and explore this? I have so many more questions than answers right now.