My room is cold.
You can’t see it, but the walls are filled with black, syrupy material instead of pink, fluffy insulation. It’s liquid with dead things in it, rotting. The burglars keep stealing my things, and giving me heavy trash bags of this material and I have to store it someplace…I can’t let anyone see me taking it out with the regular trash. They can’t know the room has been robbed; we must preserve the neighborhood image. So I decide I must hide it. Standing on a small ladder in my bedroom, I carefully tap a hole into the top of the wall and funnel it in when no one is watching. The cold dark liquid is full of slimy things. I don’t even know what the dead slimy things are. But I know this room is worthless.
I had funneled the memories and emotions into an empty space in my body room. After 30 years, it demanded to finally be felt and understood. I had never properly processed (or in some cases even recognized) prior traumatic events in my life. They were stored between the studs, and had been soaking the drywall slowly, millimeter by millimeter, then cracking the paint…and eventually I saw the darkness seeping into my room through those cracks. I had no mop, no bucket and no carpentry supplies…so I helplessly watched it spill onto the carpets and stain the furniture. It was losing patience. As the darkness and I sat together on the therapy couch, it heard me thinking aloud at last, and the walls burst inward, all at once.
The darkness trickled down the walls, ruining all I had built and decorated. It began to puddle on the floor, then it slowly rose. It soaked the hems of the drapes. Then it rose rapidly. I was alone in the room gasping for air, treading oil, rising at the top lip of the oil until my body was smashed against the ceiling. I kept my face sideways, then flipped to my back, trying to keep my lips above the air-fluid level. I panicked. I scrambled. There now was no air-fluid level; there was no air. I held my breath as long as I could…maybe a few days. I tired. After panic died, I submitted, seeing no way out. I let the black, tarry oil rush into my nostrils and fill my mouth. I swallowed it. I coughed. I saw only black.
Dane, Kate and Dr. Dolcetti found my body in the opaque room by feel. They swam in through a broken window, grabbed my arms and pulled me out to safety.
I was homeless for a bit. I slept on the street or on porches of other homes, usually Kate’s. I returned, opened the bedroom door, and the familiar slime sloshed out onto my shoes. The smell was hardly bearable and the sludge was freezing. I hadn’t noticed the smell before; it must have always been there. I waded in. I was up to my neck in freezing blackness, shivering. The lights were out. I had only a wind-up flashlight, and mostly had to feel about with blind hands. I remembered the layout of the room, which helped. On hands and knees, I found a gun under my bed, a drowned cat in my closet, a knotted garden hose slung over one of the posts of my bed. Miraculously, I found an intact, working video camera and played back the tapes, writing out the story of what had happened.
Suddenly inspired, I called out the window for buckets, and to my surprise, Kate, Dr. Dolcetti and Ruby brought buckets. We formed a line and began collecting the darkness and dumping it into a large container. We peered in to find clear water. Just picking it up in buckets as a team seemed to be filtering it somehow. I see the room needs no stain remover because the darkness is now water. It is feeding the carpets which have turned to grass and flowers. The room is healing itself as we collect the liquid and place it all in this huge clear glass container. I see a small spigot at the base of the container and decide to fill up a cup to taste it. It is pure and delicious. A few days later, I taste it again – now it is bitter with particles at the bottom. I think. I realize I am alone in the room, the tapes are playing on a loop, and I have no paper. I call for Kate who walks in within seconds, and the particles disappear. I pour it back into the top of the container. It seems the trick is to have people I love in the room, watching my progress. The more I can remember this, the purer the water gets.
I sometimes can’t stop myself. I can’t believe the magic transformation. Sometimes I have to prove it was once full of unbearable sludge. I close my eyes and lay face down, my nose and mouth in the healthy stream that feeds the new beautiful landscape of the home… hardy, bright yellow tulips and delicate purple crocuses and fragrant magnolia bushes. Instantly, it turns from water into tea-colored fluid, then in hours it thickens and becomes foul-smelling. It fills my pockets and mats my hair. It rapidly rises, forcing me to sit, then stand. I call in friends and show them the darkness. Just as before, it becomes fresh water.
Hearing the tales of other rooms that have flooded helps me remember to keep friends nearby. Learning of others creating huge reservoirs and fresh water for communities from their darkness inspires me to keep playing the tapes, writing the narrative, collecting the water.