Death · Expatria · Prague · Spain · Trauma · Wendy

Body Memory

Dreamland -- Self-portrait by Wendy Soltero

October 28, 2011  marks the eleven-year memorial of my dear friend Wendy Soltero’s murder.

As this month plods on, like clockwork I can’t sleep through the night and wake every few hours drenched in sweat. My stomach feels like it’s been eaten through with acid and I have no appetite of which to speak. I find myself alternating between an intense rage that makes me want to lash out, or feeling backed into a corner, nowhere to go but the floor in a puddle of loud tears.

After eleven years, my body remembers the day of Wendy’s death before my mind does.

I’ve been getting anxious leaving the house, my heart pounding, I can’t breathe. The elevator that takes me five storeys down feels like a coffin. I can’t breathe. Our enclosed shower becomes an upright grave. I can’t breathe. I think I’m having a heart attack. I can’t breathe. I’m going to pass out. I’m going to throw up. I can’t breathe.

I just want to curl up and sleep until November.

Since October 28, 2000 I have experienced this “anniversary” in seven different cities — Berkeley, Tannay, Thoiry, Sevilla, Istanbul, Prague, and soon Koeln. Seville 2005 marked the first time I was able to actually do something on Hallowe’en. Prague 2007 was the first and only year I felt able to have friends over for a memorial party.

I wonder if this general physical unsettlement contributes to my emotional anxiety?

I always make plans on October 28. A drag show, dancing, dinner, skinny dipping, any number of special things to honour Wendy’s life. But come 7pm Euro-time, the tears, flashbacks begin and all I can do is ride out the storm. It was only last year I realised that 7pm in Europe is the equivalent of 10am in Los Angeles, the hour that I was finally released from West Hollywood P.D. after giving my witness statement of Wendy’s murder.

My body remembers the details The Trauma Fairy has taken from my conscious memory.

This is one of the most unsettling things of all: While I am grateful that my mind has healed to the point where simple social interactions, accomplishing things on my own in new cities, my days not being a negotiation between having and not having PTSD attacks, are possible, I don’t understand how I could ever move forward from that horrifying night. I was with my friend when she was murdered, for God’s sake! How can it be that it takes an emotional outburst from “nowhere”, or fear of getting on the elevator, or freaking out about a new computer, to remind me that the autumn is the most painful, the most difficult time in my life?

Why is healing both a blessing and a curse?

My husband started working last month I have been spending a lot of time alone. I’m working from home full-time here in Koeln. First I had no Internet, then our laptop broke. It’s been two months since I’ve had any real-time interaction with my friends. I miss them.

It’s been 11 years since I’ve seen Wendy and I miss her so much I’m breaking inside. I have no idea how I’ve survived without her friendship, our sisterhood. I would give anything for one of her monster hugs.

I feel like I’m snowballing down a hill of sharp edges and sorrow, it’s impossible to know which way is up or if there is even an end in sight.

I need a good thaw.

Here’s hoping for a couple sunny days during this devastating month.

4 thoughts on “Body Memory

  1. November will be here soon. I have been praying for you more than usual. Your essay about Wendy in your novel caused me to come to a lot of realizations about sisterhood and choices. I am going to do my best to write about it but I cannot wait to really talk to you about it.

    Sezin, I know that this won’t make you feel better but I am sure Wendy would be very proud of the woman you’ve become. You are love, light and all the beautiful things in this world – a perfect monster!

    1. Lidia! How I wish there was not an ocean and a whole continent that separates us!

      Your words about Wendy touch my heart and my sadness. All I want is to make Wendy proud, and I know she is, but I never feel it is enough. And when I feel sad I feel it’s betraying her memory — even though I KNOW that she understands I need to do what I need to do. Healing is a blessing and a curse, a paradox we can only navigate our way around. There’s no changing it.

      Please let’s talk soon. I am basically always available now that I work from home and I need to take more breaks, but don’t because there is always so much to do. I keep my Skype open (unless I am sleeping!), just let me know when you are free.

      Sending you lots of love, Sister-Monster. xoxoxo


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