Thursday, May 31, 2012

You Don't See It Coming

I have spent the past hour trying to decide if I should post this or not. 

Those who have read my previous blog already know of certain things that nag at me, things that have worked their way in deeper and deeper--like a splinter.  As I was writing and working on a character today--a character who just got her world turned upside down--for some reason I remembered an email I sent a bit over a year ago to a blogger whom I had only just began following.  Maybe it was presumptuous on my part, but it was meant to be from the heart.  Fortunately she could sense that, and she decided to share it in her blog. 

In my email to her, I talked about those blasted purple panties.  For those who aren't familiar with the story of the purple panties, you need to understand this: my aunt was murdered.  There is no polite, graceful way to segue into it.  Murder doesn't tend to segue, it crashes in on your life when you aren't looking and blindsides you.  It tears a hole in your world.  Or at least it did mine.  The hole ripped open in my world on November 13, 1998.  My aunt worked in a prison; an inmate murdered her. 

As I explained to Eden in my email to her:   
I ordered a copy of the autopsy. For some reason, I was gripped by the need to know exactly what happened.

The autopsy came in the many crisp white pages. A diagram of a generic female stared back at me; her every wound meticulously documented. She was stabbed sixteen times. Her aorta severed. Her death would have been swift.

Then her killer locked them both in a storage closet off the prison kitchen and barricaded them inside while he made a superficial attempt at suicide.

I read the pages over and over, but the only things that I can still remember about it was that, even though she smoked her lungs were perfectly clear and healthy, and she had been wearing purple panties.

For some reason, the purple panties haunted me. Perhaps it was the stereotype of a nagging mother reminding her child to wear clean underwear "in case they got in an accident." Who the fuck cares what your underwear is like if you are dead?! No. That's not it... When I actually let myself acknowledge it, I know...

That morning was like any other. She got up, tugged open the top drawer of her dresser, and picked THAT pair--whether haphazardly or by design--and she had no idea what would soon happen. She had no idea that this was to be her last day on this earth. The idea that bad, terrible, painful, life-altering days start out exactly the same as the boring, mundane days...this is what keeps me up at night.

Because when you are in the middle of don't see it coming.
So here I am, finishing the final few chapters of  my book, and I start thinking about all of this.  Perhaps it is me picking at old wounds that have never properly healed.  Or maybe I am parceling out my emotional baggage onto my characters.  Whatever it is, these are the writing days that make it feel as if I am using my blood for ink. 

Some days writing goes smoothly--every line is perfection.

This is not that day.

Certain characters will not survive, and I am haunted by those blasted purple panties.


  1. I'm really sorry for your loss. That's a horrible thing to happen. Thank you for sharing it.

    I get that "purple panties" feeling sometimes when I say goodbye to my husband or my daughter when they leave the house, or when I drop them off somewhere, or maybe I'm the one going out and leaving them. It's not often, but every once in a great while, I'll hug them extra close, or worry about them more than usual. I completely understand that feeling.

    Thanks for putting it into words.

  2. I'm glad you posted this--it's so terrible, but the message is really powerful.

  3. Your pain is sharp--like a knife or needle. Instead of it simply inflicting even more pain on yourself, you are USING it as a tool, not a weapon. You are using it to get in under that splinter. Nobody ever removes those really deep ones on the first try. Every time you go in it hurts like hell, but every try, you work it out just a little more. With a little loss of blood, you will one day pry that ugly, stinking hunk of wood from under your skin and it will stop hurting as much. Dig in there, sister!

  4. The thing about splinters is that they work their way toward the surface at their own pace and in their own time. We may be aware that something's under the skin that doesn't belong there, but getting them out is uncomfortable.

    Then it surfaces and you have to face it. At that moment, the strangest things might be significant. I remember a girl, an absolute stranger, sitting on the beach next to me while they worked to revive my brother and asking his name so she could pray for him. For us. It was years before I remembered that, but it's part of the memory that helps now.

    1. You are right. And it is true, the things that "take hold" when something Important happens, whether that Important thing is tragic or lovely, are not necessarily the things that are most important. The things that "take hold" seem to be those bits that somehow work through the tangle of emotions and reactions and drama. Small bits that worm their way in, perhaps never to really be extracted. Today I keep thinking about that line from "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "There will be time to murder and create..." Now, I must remind myself, it is time to create.

  5. Hello. I absolutely love your blog. You are interesting, fun, and frankly funny. And helpful. Creative, too. I am very happy to read these post. Congratulations on the awards and thank you for taking your time and listening to me ramble on and on.
    Thank you,

    Fellow writer.