The Hanging Man

Her mother was sad, and sent Reina outside to play. She was filled with anger and helplessness, powerless to help her mother and to fix what was wrong. She ran past the willows and down the overgrown driveway. There was very little pavement left, only crumbling patches here and there among the tall weeds. The Thomsons used to live here with their twins, but after the darkness they had moved away and their house had been torn down. Reina raced up the drive and past the flowering lilac to the old oak. She threw herself down on the carpet of haircap moss that surrounded it, clearing the green of leaves and twigs that had accumulated since she had been here last.

She lay on her back on the plush moss and watched the branches overhead move in the wind, listening to the sound it made as it rattled the leaves. She was not aware she was crying until the acrid tears ran into her ears, wetting her hair where it lay spread across the ground. She dug her fingers into the thick moss, feeling the cool sponginess of the earth beneath. She worried about her mom a lot, and she tried to make her laugh, but sometimes nothing she did seemed to help. During these times, her mother didn’t seem to be all there with her. She was preoccupied and didn’t really hear what Reina had to say. Reina remembered telling her about seeing a snake in the woods and her mother’s disappointing response of “That’s nice”. Reina had thought it was exciting. She had almost died and her mother had been unimpressed!
She rolled over onto her tummy and watched a beetle trundle across her carpet. She moved a twig out of its way absently. She was only six so she didn’t think she was big enough to help her mom out. Reina got to her feet and walked over to where the Thomson’s house used to be.

Her uncle had driven her up here on the back of his dirt bike after the Thomson’s had moved out but before the house was torn down. The front door had been standing open and her uncle stopped the bike across from the house. The front door opened onto a small landing, and stairs led to the upstairs of the old farmhouse. He told her that the man who lived there had died and it was now haunted. Reina, staring wide eyed into the abandoned house, saw the outline of a hanging man through the open doorway. He appeared to be hanging from the unseen upstairs, dangling over the front door landing. She couldn’t see any of his features. She couldn’t see what he was wearing or what his face looked like; she could only see the black man-shape. Reina had been filled with dread and had started to cry. It wasn’t that she couldn’t see his features, it was that he didn’t have any. The hanging man was just a negative space shadow, and the figure of him hanging there through the wide open door was somehow obscene. Her uncle laughed at her, teasing her, but she begged him to leave, half hysterical until he drove her away from the house and sped her through the woods to get her laughing as she clung to his waist.

After that, she did not go to the house again until after they had torn it down. Thinking it safe, she had gone excavating in the demolished house’s basement. It was full of broken brick and beams, and was irresistible to an adventurous six year old. She was down in the basement, pleased at having just found some blue chalk, when she felt she was being watched. She looked up and saw a man standing on the ground above, watching her silently. He did not make a sound, and she did not recognize him, but Reina knew instinctively that he was a ghost. She scrambled to climb out of the ruined foundation while he watched. He did not speak, or threaten her in any way, just gazed at her sadly. Once she extracted herself from the ruins, scraping her leg on a nail as she did so, she ran like a rabbit, hiding in the forest until her heart quit pounding against her chest. After that she was cautious, sneaking around the old property and keeping clear of the ruins until they were filled in.

Today she was preoccupied and was not thinking about the hanging man or the ghost. The cliffs were on the other side of the property, and they fell steeply down to the gravel pit where small pools were filled with tadpoles and snakes hid in the red clay cliffsides. She was not allowed to play down there, but she had been down there often, although normally with her cousins.

Advertisements

Planned Parenthood

I was raped as a teenager. I had just turned seventeen and was a senior in high school when I found myself in a very bad situation. I do not want to go into what happened that night. It is enough that you know I was raped and terrified. I was from an abusive home, and there was no way I could tell an adult. However, I knew I needed help. The rapists were not kind enough to use protection, and I was afraid I might be pregnant or have gotten an STD. I was seventeen, had been traumatized, and my boyfriend, who I loved very much, had decided to blame me for what happened. Suffice it to say, I was not in a good place emotionally.
I did the only thing I could do – I contacted my local clinic. I remember calling them from school, using the payphone out front. This was when payphones were still a thing and before everyone had cell phones.  I made an appointment and the lady asked me what I was coming in for. I told her I needed to be tested for pregnancy and STDs. She asked if I had reason to believe I may have been exposed, such as having sex with someone who was a known carrier. I didn’t want to tell her, but I did. I told her I had been raped and that I just didn’t know. I remember the woman was horrified and asked if there was someone I could talk to about it. She wanted a phone number, but I told her I was calling from school and did not have one  to give her. I told her I was fine, I just needed to make sure, and no, there was no wonderfully wise and compassionate adult I could speak to about the issue. I made the appointment and held my breath.

The day of the appointment, I had to get to the next town over, where the clinic was located. It’s been some years ago since this happened and I don’t remember how I got there, but it would have been complicated. I did not have a car so getting there would have been a real problem. It was a rural area so there was no public transportation available. No taxis, no buses, no trains. I may have hitch-hiked, but after my recent rape I rather doubt it. At any rate, it would have involved some planning to get just to the next town over. Thank God I didn’t have to go to another state. To get to my appointment, I would have either skipped school or taken time off of my job. At that time I was working 4-12 after school, full time, trying to save up the money to escape my miserable home existence.
I don’t remember getting there, but I remember the appointment. The lady I spoke to was the one I had spoken to on the phone, so she knew what had happened. She was compassionate and concerned for me. I was seventeen, isolated, had serious trust issues, and was highly independent. I often adopted a tough attitude as protection, hoping my prickly exterior would keep people at a safe distance. I had not cried over what happened since that night. I had been trying to pretend like it hadn’t happened. Until that appointment. The lady at the clinic was gentle and she was so genuinely concerned about me that I started crying. I don’t remember what she asked me, but it came out that it had been two men, which made it that much worse. She examined me, tested me for STDs, spoke to me, gave me a bag full of prophylactics and a referral to see a therapists, all for free. This is what Planned Parenthood did for me.

Her compassion was what broke me. I had expected her to blame me, to think it was my fault, and that I was a horrible person. She didn’t think any of those things, and she helped me feel a little less tainted. My results came back negative and I went on with my life with one more scar, but I have never forgotten the kindness of that unknown clinic worker.
The current attack on Planned Parenthood by a bunch of old men is unacceptable. Planned Parenthood does so much for so many women. If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have been able to be tested. They do cancer screenings, pap smears, give classes, and give prenatal care, among many other services. Providing safe abortions when necessary is just a minuscule part of what they do, and zero funds from federal money goes towards that. Planned Parenthood clinics help millions of girls just like I was. These old men would have demanded that my father was told right off the bat. That would have gotten me beaten and more, and it would have made the whole experience a lot more traumatic. My story is just one, and it happened long ago, but it mattered. Planned Parenthood matters. Abstinence education doesn’t work… teenagers will do what teenagers do. When provided with birth control and protection, unwanted pregnancies and STDs drop dramatically. When you take them away, they rise dramatically. It’s really not a difficult concept. If you want less federal money spent on supporting unwanted children and their woefully unprepared young parents, you spend a little up front on prevention. In my case it wasn’t even a matter of teenagers doing what teenagers do – it was rape. And Planned Parenthood was there.

I don’t think a bunch of old men have any business deciding what woman do with their bodies. Demonizing an organization that does so much for so many is self destructive and it’s just plain stupid. With our current administration, Planned Parenthood is going to need the support of individual people, even if you can only donate a little. It won’t replace the money lost through federal grants, but it might help keep them afloat for a little while. We don’t need more nuclear weapons. That’s ludicrous, dangerous and expensive. But the same old men who don’t think any money should go towards health care are fine with spending money on war toys. They should not be allowed to feel self righteous. They should be called out for the bitter dinosaurs that they are.

You can donate to Planned Parenthood here. They will even let you donate in someone else’s name, so that person gets a nice little thank you note. I, and thousands of other women, have donated in Mike Pence’s name, just because he’s such an extreme miserable example of an old man mucking about in matters that he should have no say in.

Just a suggestion.

Mother is the name of God

“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”
 – William Makepeace Thackeray

There is a single shining memory she holds close. She protects this memory like the ephemeral thing of beauty that it is to her, only bringing it out in her darkest moments. She was nine, and it was just her and her mother in the bench seat of the old pick up truck. She loved that the beat up old truck sent her bouncing off the seat whenever it hit a pothole, and sent her into giggles while her stomach did flip flops. It was a sunny Spring day and her mother’s hair shone pale blonde in the light. She thought her mom was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, and the love she felt for her filled her so that there was barely room to breathe. Her mother was laughing and she just wanted this time with her to stretch out, closing a bubble of euphoria around them that would protect them from the world.

Her brother was just a baby and she held him close. He too was laughing at the bouncing truck. She could smell the clean baby scent of him as she stared at her mother. The visits with her mom always went by too fast and she never wanted to go home. Growing up, she had always worried about her mother, as she knew her mom was unhappy. She would hear her mom crying in the bedroom and run out of the house to hide. She had special places in the forest, and she would go there and sit thinking about her mom. Things had changed since her mom had moved out. Her mom was happier and that made her happy, but her mother’s new friends scared her sometimes. Sometimes she was angry that her mom had left her with her father, but she would quickly push that down. None of that mattered at this moment. The Rolling Stones song “Beast of Burden” came on the old radio and her mother sang along, turning up the volume. Holding her baby brother close, watching her mom sing, she wanted everything to stay like this forever.

It was the last precious memory she had of her mom before she died.

Not my president

Right now I am stunned and absolutely sickened that Trump is being declared president. Fuck the electoral college. Hillary was far from perfect but I trusted her not to start a nuclear war or to ruin the environment. Trump’s anti-science stance is unacceptable. We have been making tremendous progress on renewable energies and now his plan is to send us back to the 1970s. The man is putting a climate science denier in charge of the EPA. This is unacceptable. Scientists have pretty much come to a consensus that climate change is driven by our activities. I read an article on National Geographic a few days ago that sourced multiple major science organization studies. Across the board, 97% of scientists agree. I don’t care if it’s inconvenient. It’s the truth and we are already seeing the results of it.

Nature and the environment are critically important to me. They are a big part of who I am, and have been throughout my life. I have always had an affinity for and a connection to the natural world, more so than to humans. To see this man reverse what little progress we’ve made to mitigate climate change is abhorrent. Other countries are ahead of us on renewable energy and it’s something we should be leading the way in, but our country has been dumbed down so much that they will gladly let other countries pull ahead of us. “Make America Great Again” is utter bullshit. It’s already great. He wants to undo any regulations put on he and his cronies businesses. Fuck the environment, our water, other species, the ocean, they want to use it up for a quick buck and let someone else worry about the consequences. It breaks my heart.

I’ve seen multiple articles about emboldened racists chanting about white power and the wall (which is never going to happen) in high schools, while there has been an outbreak of racist graffiti including swastikas boldly paired with Trump slogans. This is what Trump has created with his unadulterated hate. I hate to think of the damage this man can cause in four years. Not to mention the supreme court. I wish Democrats had won the house so we could be as obstructionist towards Trump as they were towards Obama, but we are always the party to try to play nice. Well we need to quit playing nice and fight back the way they do. Supreme Court nominee Garland has been waiting 215 days now for approval. That is unacceptable. Republicans are not the only ones to get to nominate judges. No. I am glad there are protests all over the world over this orange piece of shit taking office. There are multiple petitions to use the electoral college to put Hillary in office using the popular vote. I doubt they’ll go anywhere but it’s worth a try.

Meanwhile, Trump has multiple court dates coming up. So if he gets convicted of fraud and racketeering, then what? We just ignore it? They tried to impeach Clinton, who was a damn good president, for lying about his sex life. That’s somehow worse than this misogynistic, racist, illiterate, incomprehensible old fat man who can’t speak without lying? I don’t think so. He’s a fucking con artist and nothing more.

I have seen multiple people on facebook that are worried about their kids. Their kids are scared and they don’t know what to tell them. At first I thought this was maybe a bit overkill, but after giving it some thought, I can sort of understand. They are trying to teach their kids to be good people, what’s right from wrong, and then this man gets elected president? No wonder they’re confused. God forbid if you aren’t white. Then I have LGBT friends and relatives who are devastated because Drumpf and Co plan to roll back the equal rights gained under Obama. I am so very demoralized right now and needed to vent. I could go on but I think I’ll go pet a kitty instead.

Well I had planned to finish writing about my medical emergency, since that’s what’s currently dominating my life. I don’t remember where I left off. My husband took me to the ER, where we found I had sepsis with organ failure, something going on with my kidneys, a host of other things, and of course, necrotizing fasciitis. You know, this is one of those things that is rare and horrible and you never think you or anyone you know will get it. So of course that”s what it was. They rushed me into surgery and cut out all the bad tissue, which was at my abdominal incision and was about to start chowing on my organs. I was in ICU for a while. My husband says it was like 5 days but I honestly don’t remember it. I have a giant hole in my stomach and it always hurts and itches but I was lucky.

The nurse comes three times a week and changes the sponges and all that. That is actually a nightmare because I’ve started healing into the sponges, and need to be separated from them first. The incision is 11″ long, where they did the hysterectomy and them cut it open even more for the flesh eating disease. (There, that’s so much easier to type than necrotizing fasciitis.) It was about 4″ deep, or all the way through, and about 2.5″ across. It is uneven, with a sort of channel that has to be kept open so fluid doesn’t build up. I go see a Doctor, either the gyn or the wound specialist once a week. And the rest of the time I’m home. My husband has been babying me, and waiting on me constantly. I hate to be a burden but he has really been wonderful. I think maybe it scared him that I almost died. Whatever the reason, hes been wonderful. My grandmother called several times and my uncle sent a card. Once my brother found out I wasn’t going to die, I guess he went on with things since I haven’t heard from him. I hope he’s doing the things he should be. My adopted kids haven’t called or anything. Maybe it’s their age, or their generation, but both of them are old enough to know better. It makes me wonder if they even give a damn about me any more.  It breaks my heart, because I would do anything to help them, and I tried so hard with R, but there’s nothing I can do. They’re either thoughtless or don’t care. I gave up the closest family I ever had when her mother did the things she did, and I’d do it again, because I had to do what I could to protect those kids. Now they’re grown. Maybe R living here was a mistake. I’m sure she doesn’t see me the same. I’m human, and I make mistakes and I have faults just like everyone else. I know she was angry at me at times, because she was rude and sometimes mean, and lied about things. That’s her way, but I had hoped she wouldn’t be like that with me. I hope she eventually learns that she has to talk to people, not just disappear or wonder why things aren’t the way she wants them.

Enough. I have the wound vac for 2-3 months, and I certainly don’t want to write about every agonizing episode to healing. I think I’m just moody from hurting tonight.

Death and medical

I’ve been close to death multiple times in my life. Sometimes due to violence, once that was self inflicted and now through illness. When I say close to death, I don’t mean “Wow, I could have died”. I mean “Wow, I should have died and I don’t know why I didn’t.”

A couple of weeks ago I had to have a hysterectomy. It was an abdominal hysterectomy because I had very large fibroid tumors. Other than that, it’s a pretty standard surgery. I was in the hospital for a few days and they sent me home with what I thought was a working case of strep throat. My throat was sore, and at first I thought it was from the anesthesia tube, but it continually got worse. Within a couple of days, I had developed white patches all over my mouth so we made a call to the Doctor and she called me in an antibiotic. That week I didn’t get better but it wasn’t getting worse either. I finished the antibiotics and my GP called in another type of antibiotic. However, before I could start it, my body started to crash and burn. This was Friday,  and I was incredibly weak, my voice was almost gone, and I had started bleeding. Just fyi, if you’re squeamish you may want to stop reading.

If you’re still here, I had been spotting throughout the week but I just had a hysterectomy and thought that was probably normal. However, my stomach incision had started bleeding as well and it was foul. I was so weak I was needing help walking and my husband really went all out for me. If you’ve ever run a high fever, you know that spacey feeling you get? Sometimes you’ll hallucinate things, even if it’s not full on bugs on the  wall. I was feeling like that, and I was so hot. I remember feeling my face and how hot it was but that you weren’t supposed to be able to tell about yourself. I took my temperature with one of those touch thermometers that you rub across the skin, and it said I had a fever of 105. I thought that couldn’t be right so I got my husband to take it and he got a reading of 104. I was running chills so he gave me Tylenol and put me to bed. A few minutes later I got up to go to the bathroom with his help, but when I got up from the toilet a pool of black blood came from me. I have never seen blood that color and didn’t know it could get that color. It also had the consistency of pudding. (Sorry, but I did warn you…) I called for my husband and he  got me into a pair of pants and we went to the ER. I was so weak I could barely walk and was shaking badly. He wheeled me in and I’m pretty sure I looked like death on a stick judging from the looks I was getting. And I smelled. That was the worst for me, because I’m usually a lotion fanatic and love pretty scents. I remember telling someone that anything that smelled like that should be dead. I was closer than I knew. Well, the Tylenol was helping to bring the fever down so by the time the ER was working on me it was at 103.5. I swear I think I sweated through the mattress, all while bleeding this foulness. I was given a vaginal exam but they couldn’t find the source of my illness. My white blood cell count came back as 28 and she told me it should be between 4-6 so obviously my body was trying to fight a massive infection. Without knowing what the infection was, they put four bags of antibiotics in me right off the start. Then they moved me to a room where a stone faced nurse was not at all helpful. Every time I had to pee, I’d make a bloody mess and need to wash up and change underwear. The blood was coming from my stomach but Nurse Ratchett wasn’t hearing it. My blessed husband is a bit OCD so he was cleaning up behind me. So Nurse Ratchett not so subtly suggested that I wash up. Well by this time I had already washed up three times in the hour or so I’d been there. I soon hado pee once again and this time my husband went and got a nurse to show her where I was bleeding. All of this is sort of a blur to me but apparently that finally got something going and my Doctor was there – heels and all, since it was her date night apparently and she made sure we knew it. She told us I had necrotizing fasciitis and they were preparing a team for surgery.

I will continue tomorrow… I think writing about this helps me come to terms with it.  I had a nurse here today doing my wound packing thing, which is a whole other nightmare.

Night

I have always loved being out in the night. I grew up in a very rural area and it was never hard to find a place that was truly dark. Living along the Chesapeake Bay, I’ve spent more nights than I can remember listening to the sound of the waves lapping against the beach, scattering driftwood and debris across the rocky sand as the tide rose. The water is inky black at night, with sparks of light from the docks, or the moon, or simply the stars. There is a sound to the night that I’ve always found hard to describe. It’s like noises echo differently in the darkness, but there is also a sort of low pitched hum that sends waves of yearning through me. I never knew for what, but I think it was just adventure, romance, drama, all those things that make you feel alive like nothing else in your life. All those things that make you feel young and electric, and that so many people discard as they grow older. I can feel this hum quickening my blood, filling me with possibilities and making me drunk with need. It’s a little like delirium, bubbling up through me and making me fey.

My friend used to call me the dangerous type, but these nights were the only time I actually felt dangerous. I felt like I was overflowing with possibilities, with sensuality and a certain kind of violence, and I believed that anything could happen. My impulsivity bubbled up and I would let go of the reins just to see what might happen. I think the cover of darkness allowed me to be my real self, my wild core that most never get to touch. That’s where a feral child of the forest still lives. She knows that the world is full of magic and that magic is often dark and razor-edged. That child has rituals to keep the world in order.

It’s not just the sound of darkness, though. It’s all senses being engaged differently at night. The wind on a summer night carries a promise that the daylight lacks, and the feel of it on my skin is soothing even as all my nerve endings are on alert. It promises so much. I miss the moon.