I know where this sign is. You can see it on southbound I-71, somewhere in Madison County- between Columbus and Cincinnati.
I don’t like to think about that most terrible place I think of as simply the void, but I was reminded of it in of all places in church this week. It’s that bone chilling, thought shattering, crushing experience of being everywhere and nowhere and immersed in grinding, mind-blowing pain that is brought on by extreme trauma, whether it be emotional or physical. Stephen King sort of describes it in his short story, “The Jaunt.” What I mean by the void is a sort of airless, timeless limbo that is between time and space (if that’s possible to comprehend.) It’s the moment in which you are hit with unspeakably horrific, life-shattering news and the grief and disbelief and shock hit you like a tidal wave- and worse.
In “The Jaunt,” the entry into the void was a bit different. A scientist discovered that teleporting things almost instantly across space was possible, but that live animals and humans only made it through “the jaunt” if they were anesthetized. Live animals came through the process aged and weak and died shortly after arriving at their destination- and the few humans that attempted it came out on the other side certifiably insane.
Maybe King’s story isn’t the best analogy, but it’s the closest reference I can find to those times in which the wind is knocked out of you, you are transported to an airless, breathless, motionless state, and your world falls apart. It’s infinity in there. And not in a good way. It’s what I would imagine to be a tiny sampling of hell- and no I’m not referring to the BMV. I have to go there soon enough for the dreaded driver’s license mug shot, for which no matter what I do it will turn out positively frightening and should say “Correctional Institute Inmate” on the picture somewhere, because yes, my driver’s license pics have always been That Bad. Even so, I’d gladly take an hour at the BMV waiting on having a shitty picture taken vs. one millisecond of the void. Believe that.
My driver’s license is valid, but the pic is just as bad.
I don’t like to be reminded of the void or of the times I’ve been there.
However, as far as psychological pain goes, I am almost always a delayed reactor. I can only think of one time that I completely fell apart instantaneously, and that is when I got the news about my four year old niece being killed, which was completely unforeseen. It seems that in order for me to fall apart I have to be caught off guard.
For years I dealt with- (and at times, still do deal with) post traumatic stress, which is the gift that keeps on giving, those brief illogical terrors that show up unbidden and in the least likely of places for the most bizarre reasons. One of the most memorable unbidden episodes was back when I was working a really crappy job. The only thing that kept me from going nuts in that place was that they sent me out to run titles from time to time. It’s not rocket science but it does give you a lot of time to yourself. You find the title offices of surrounding counties and turn in the paperwork so people who just bought cars get their titles registered and all that crud. Most of the time back then, title offices were in the courthouse in whatever county seat so I got to investigate some really cool old 19th century courthouses. Today public buildings might as well be prisons, but back in the day architects built things not only to last, but for their aesthetic value. That part of the title running thing was almost fun.
This is the courthouse in Marion County. I hope that the powers that be don’t decide to tear this one down too.
I had to go to Union County, which was only about a half an hour out. The title office had temporarily been moved to the old high school which was slated for demolition, while the new county building was being built. So I find my way through the vestibule and follow the arrow upstairs. The staircases were well-worn and crumbling, but the metal framework beneath them was holding fast. I had a really strange feeling in that building, as if I were violating someone, or something’s space. I found the temporary title office, completed the transfers, and as I was leaving, a huge framed glass and gold leaf memorial caught my eye.
I don’t have a pic of the Union County memorial that was in that high school, but this memorial displays a similar concept.
It was a memorial of WWI veterans who came from that school. There were at least fifty names on that memorial, and I believe eight of those names had stars next to them, indicating that they had been killed in action. I wasn’t able to linger there long. For such a small, rural town to lose that many was sad, but the fact that the memorial was in a high school sort of struck me. These weren’t old men. This wasn’t a picture of grinning old men reminiscing over old times at the bar in the VFW. These were kids just out of high school- boys who either came home jaded and scarred, or never came home at all. I don’t know how to describe the wave of emptiness and profound grief that washed over me that day, but I had to run back to the car as fast as I could, and for some reason I was overcome with sadness and rage and I don’t know what else. I wept over strange young men who I had never met, who had experienced terrors beyond anything I could imagine, and to this day I have no idea why.
On a brighter note, I remembered that I haven’t put up any pics of my newest kitty, Jezebel. Jezebel was one of the feral kittens Jerry trapped back on the shop lot the week before Halloween. The other three went to the owner of the body shop’s horse barn to keep the vermin away from the horses. I wasn’t planning on another cat, but Jezebel, well, she’s all black. All black cats don’t fare well in feral or outdoor settings, so we made her a house cat. The first week or so she had to be handled with a welding glove (this is sort of normal with feral kittens.) Now she is very social and fond of human attention, Isabel (and she looks just like a mini-Isabel) and really isn’t fazed by much of anything, including dogs. The key to socializing cats is getting them before the socialization window more or less closes at 12 weeks. These kittens were about 6 or 7 weeks when we found them, which is the perfect age to socialize them. They can eat solid food and live OK without Mommy, so the mortality rate is low, but they can still learn to get along with humans, other cats and dogs.
Jezebel instantly gravitated to Isabel, (who is also all black) which we are grateful for because Miz Izz loves other cats and has always been good at schooling youngsters. So now I have a 14 week or so old kitten who is going to have to be spayed here in the next few weeks. But Jezebel is already a really good cat. No welding gloves are currently required.
2 thoughts on “Beyond the Void, Someone to Talk To, and Miscellaneous Tidbits”
That new cat is a cutie. Congrats!
As far as reasons to fall to pieces go, the death of a 4-year old is a pretty appropriate one. I can’t even imagine and hope I never have to. Likewise, I hope your experience in such matters forever ends there.
I thought your remembrance about the WWI memorial and your strange (strange as in unexpected, not necessarily inappropriate, if you think about it) reaction was insightful, in that it reminded me that sometimes the passage of time and numbered dates obscures the flesh and bone reality which lies beneath.
I also like how you made the most of your “crappy” job by enjoying your visits to the beautiful old buildings. You don’t mention if you already had Steve-O by the time you took that job, but I have to imagine you did. Before I had kids (relatively recently–a little over 5 years) any job was made a little easier by the thought, “If things get too shitty, I’ll just quit.” I’m self-employed now, but if I weren’t, I might still have that attitude. Seriously, my kids won’t starve.
Actually, I took that job because Steve-o was an infant, and I was working out of town and often would have to work 60+ hours a week which is hard to do when you’re trying to raise an infant. What ended up being the vocation from hell was just a few miles from where I lived vs. 40 miles out, and they promised me the sun, moon and stars- only for me to end up making almost half as much money and getting stuck doing a lot of things that weren’t what I was hired to do. Live and learn, but I did get to explore some cool old courthouses as well as some fantastic Mom & Pop type restaurants. Rural Ohio has some advantages.
As far as my niece, that was probably the most tragic thing I can think of in my life. Her dad had decided to go to work in an ice storm. Ice storms in rural Marion County are particularly wicked as it’s totally flat and 100 MPH winds with 0 visibility are not uncommon. Anyway, there was a railroad crossing near their house that had no gates or lights. He actually ran into the train because he couldn’t see it. My niece was in a car seat, but in the front. My brother-in-law was killed instantly. It took the Highway Patrol over an hour to get to them. My niece was still alive and even survived being taken to the local hospital and the life flight to Children’s (over 60 miles away) but she had too many internal injuries to survive and she died in surgery. My nephew was only 11 months old but survived with nothing more than a minor concussion. He was in the only part of the car that wasn’t demolished- the right rear quarter. It was horrific. I am surprised my sister (not the sadistic one who married rich) is even close to being sane, losing her husband and daughter in the same day, but somehow- by the grace of God, and she will tell you that, she is. My nephew is 16 and an honors student who is already in college. He seems to be pretty normal, thankfully.