I don’t know what triggered this in my mind, but there was a point last night when I had a very distinct mostly felt memory of looking for someone. In the morning, I thought about that, and I began to realize I remember that so vividly because it really happened. It happened more than once. It happened quite frequently, and the reason that happened is that sometimes people disappeared unexpectedly. They went away and did not come back and I did not know the reason. I came to the place where they had been last seen, and they simply weren’t there anymore. I remember searching for people and finding them again, but I also think the urgency of looking for them came from sometimes being unable to find them.
People seemed to just vaporize. That was my world. No continuity. Not merely one person who seemed to be different people at different times—and I had that—but many people who seemed to physically disappear. Because I had no reliable primary relationship, every other relationship was doubly or triply important. And those people just disappeared sometimes.
That is always my fear about walking up to the high school. I will get there, and C will just be gone. That’s a schema for me, because of my particular past. People vaporize. They physically disappear with no explanation. I think it is a stronger schema than any other schema for me. It’s the abandonment schema with a twist, and it less about rejection and more about life being unpredictable and inexplicable. Logic says C ought to be at the high school because the school session is on and the matron won’t just allow her to head off with some well-meaning relative. If she ran away or caused some other problem, they would call me. They called the last time. And yet there is this baby logic that says none of that matters. People just vaporize sometimes.
I suppose that is death. The person’s consciousness no longer occupies their body. It might be, if there is such a thing as souls, that their consciousness lies elsewhere. I guess this is what I have been trying to tell myself: this is how I understood death. The body was there (sometimes), but the feeling of a person was no longer in it.
There was a cobra at school this week, a very large one. We have a lot of snakes on campus during the summer, but they are usually quite small. This one was a full-grown, healthy, well-fed snake. Two of the teachers killed it. It was a total madhouse, and reminded me of my own school days. Counter Xers assume, I think, that their problems are unique. No one else in the world has snakes at school, but that is not true. We had snakes at school. The lunch ladies told us to go inside. We went inside. Then animal control came and took the snake away. It was all fairly organized. I think this happened at least twice in elementary school. Maybe five or six times.
At our school, everyone ran to look at the snake, the children gathered in a screaming crowd while two teachers first drove it into an unoccupied building and then out again. I went away at that point, because the whole thing seemed so insane to me. Apparently, the teachers continued to throw rocks until the animal died. They might have called our forest service, who would have captured the snake and taken it into the forest—it is, after all, an endangered species. But they didn’t. Better to throw rocks.
But I went to look at the snake as it was dying—Maths Ma’am kept her son inside. He is seven. She told him the snake was very dangerous and to stay inside. It made me think of C’s cousin, who is five, and is not very obedient. I went to get him—sure enough, he had gone close to the snake (not very close, but too close for my comfort), and I told him to go away. Anyway, the snake was dying by then. I had this feeling as I watched it, first of sadness and pain, and then of relief. It seemed to me I was imagining—or maybe I really did feel—that moment of actual death. A minute later, he opened his jaws for the last time and convulsed. That would have been after death. It happens after you die. I am sure I have seen that before. I am sure I have seen that many times, and it would be familiar to me. My dad killed animals in front of me and not just people. I would know that feeling of the animal dying and their consciousness no longer occupies their body, but it would have been hard for me to understand. At 2 or 3, when my dad was torturing me in this way, I would not have known how to make sense of it, except to feel that they were gone. They were not inside their body anymore, and it would have felt like their consciousness had gotten lost to me. It would have melted into a sense of people physically disappearing out of my life. I wouldn’t have understood the difference.
The other schema that has been surfacing lately is irrelevance. I know parts of me feel bad. I mean feel from the inside out that I am a bad human being, and I will have to deal with that. But there is this other one that I just don’t matter. I am like a stone. You can put me anywhere and it won’t make any difference. That gets triggered in many situations. No one wants to be a stone. I don’t like it. That is the memory that surfaces with it. It makes me angry to be a stone and not to matter to anyone. I don’t want to be a stone, but it is the baby logic that pops up as a way to explain many, many situations.