No Story

With my seasonal cold in full swing, and the fluid in my ears high as a Venetian flood, every turn of my head is met by dry scratchy sounds, and my own voice is hollow and unfamiliar. I mention these things because it puts me in mind of the time I was buried alive.

When people find out that I was abducted when I was 13, and buried alive in a smallish wooden box for 111 days with only an air and feeding tube to sustain me, the first question they ask is, “How did it affect you?” And I tell them, “Not in any interesting way.” I wonder what is it they would like me to say? I’ll grant you that when you’re confined in such a small space with your arms pinned by your sides, and your own breath hot on your nose and shallow in your ear, you discover that your perspective on things is more prone to shifting than you thought possible before. It’s understandable, because your priorities become greatly focused, and everything else you thought about on the outside becomes so much noise. After a time you may even find that it’s hard to imagine keeping all those old concerns in your head at the same time. Even the notion of there being an in-side and an out-side becomes nothing more than a distressing distraction.

Limited as it is, the world inside the box is, finally, understandable. It’s graspable. You might say that it’s perfect in a way, despite presenting a challenge initially to your comfort preferences. My hands were bound at the wrists, so the luxury of being able to scratch an itch quickly became an abstraction. My new ascetic lifestyle presented me with few social options, so I was forced to seek creative solutions with those few resources available to me. When I panicked, for instance, I would gulp cool air from that plastic air tube, and it would whistle in that single hollow note that I hear sometimes still, not very far from where I’m sitting now.

You always hear the story of people who were buried alive, and how the experience affected them in deep and meaningful ways. But to me that story – the story that there is even a story – is nothing but a useless din. And what do you learn from clamor except that relief only comes from blocking your ears of it? No, what’s far more interesting to me is the possibility that someone buried alive might emerge without being affected at all. Is such beyond the realm of possibility? I posit that it is not, and have devoted my entire dirt-floored basement to prove my theory. My living mausoleum can accommodate up to twelve guests at a time – all the better to find those few who emerge without a story. And that, my friends, is the most peaceful story of all.

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