(This is from our Tokoni Posting, 7/31/2009 . . .)

Buried In The Hood

There was an incident in the ‘hood – I don’t remember exactly when, though I could easily point out its physical location. I think it was in the fall. It was months after I’d attempted to pay the teenager back for what he’d done to me; embarrassing and using me in that way, months after we’d returned from North Carolina.

It started simply enough – as a game, a dangerous activity. Across the road in the neighbor’s backyard the teenager had dug a small trench. I have dim memories of the friends he had hanging around. It seems to me they were the ‘older kids’, the teenagers he was hanging around.

He had dug a hole about five feet deep, maybe a little more. Six feet long or so, it was just wide enough for us little kids to slip in. Encouraging three or four of them to get into it, he began filling it up with the loose dirt.

When the dirt had risen up to their chins, he gave each one a short piece of garden hose. “Here,” he’d say. “Put this end in your mouth. Breath through it while I finish burying you.”

And so the kids did – the picture is in my mind – while dirt showered little heads. All in a row, green lengths of garden hose protruding from there mouths. Lips clenched tight around the rubber to keep the dirt from getting in. And then he continued burying them, showering the dirt over their heads until only their head stuck above the dirt, like a row of tow headed cabbages in a garden Occasionally he would stop to adjust a hose, making sure it stayed above ground level. Eventually all of the kids were buried; there was nothing to see except this row of short hoses, sticking up out of the rumpled ground.

“I could kill them, you know,” he casually commented, walking around his creation. It looked to me like some sort of bizarre flower garden, those hoses sticking up out of the sand. “All I have to do is put my thumb over the hose – and they’re dead.” He grabbed one of the hoses with his hand, illustrating how easy this would be, his thumb hovering over the end. I remember walking as he stood to the side, observing his bizarre creation. You could hear the air whistling out of the hoses; putting my palm near one I could feel warm moisture being exhaled out. It seemed strange and odd and wonderful to me, knowing that just below my feet were these little kids, standing as if at attention, in the coarse darkness of the sand, the coolness of the earth.

After about five or ten minutes he got his shovel and began digging them back up. It was a slow process – it probably took a half hour, maybe even more. They climbed out, some staggering. They act pleased, but in some of their faces is a look of terror. Then he motions to me, my best friend, and another kid. All of us have ‘been’ with him; we have all been ‘victims’ of his sexual appetite at one time or another – or in some cases, many times.

“Get in,” he says. I look at the trench with doubt. The walls are dark and crumbly, the bottom nearly black. “Go ahead. You chicken?”

My best friend (his little brother) nudges my elbow. “Come on!” he says, climbing in and standing in the trench. The slit in the earth is so narrow it almost embraces his front and back. “I dare ya!”

Well, I pondered. If my best friend will get in – be there right beside me – and after all, the teenager hadn’t hurt the first group of kids – how neat it would be to be buried there, how cool to breath through a hose. Enticed by the idea of a new adventure, I eased myself down into the hole.

It was tight. The scent of fresh earth filling my nose. The crumbling wall – right there, before my very eyes. The cool uneven bottom, pressing against the pads of my bare feet. I could feel my heart racing. This was a new thing, a new experience. The sense of danger – that was part of the draw. But at the same time I had a child’s undefined sense of worry, knowing I would be subject to the whims of the teenager; seeing that thumb in my mind, poised over the end of the hose, I felt a sense of apprehension.

But it was too late – the teenager was already shoveling dirt in. Before I knew it I was up to my knees; up to my chest. The dirt pressed in, immobilizing me in its soft, yet firm grip. Showers of dirt rained over us, tossing my head and blinking the crumbs away, I remember looking up at the narrow ribbon of sky beyond the towering pines. It was a bright blue sky; paler than the ocean, but not much different. White clouds hung there, suspended, until finally I had to close my eyes. The dirt was getting too deep.

“Here, take this.” The hard end of a hose butted against my lips. Opening my mouth and taking it in; clenching my lips firmly sealed around it. It was wet from the previous kid, and had a foul, plastic-rubber taste. And drawing air through that tube was harder than I thought. You really had to suck hard, pushing against the dirt pressing against your chest, pulling the air in through that narrow constriction. I began wondering if I had made a mistake.

Finally. The dirt is over my head, bowing my head under its weight. I am desperate about the hose; afraid to lose it, knowing that if I do, I shall die. I can’t feel my friend next to me; all I can feel is the weight of the dirt closing in. And it is silent – the quietest quiet I’ve ever known. I can’t open my eyes – don’t dare to, for they will get full of sand – and dark. Even beyond my eyelids I know it’s dark – a strange darkness, because even if I did open my eyes, there would be no light – no chance of light, finding its way under the dirt. And it feels very alone, separated – from the my friends, from the sky, from the world.  In some ways it is a good feeling; a feeling of total isolation from the world. The dirt is soft – but firm. It is cool, much cooler than “up there”. The air, foul tasting , draws through the hose reluctantly, as though it resists traveling beneath the earth.

I don’t know what happened, there beneath the ground, nor do I know what happened above. I “went away” after awhile, for lack of better words. There is a black spot in my memory there, as dark as the hole I was buried in. It “feels” like a hole in my memory. But around the hole there are impressions; ghostly sensations, like the marks left by a shovel.

I seem – and I’m not sure – to remember . . . what? I struggle here, searching my mind, attempting to penetrate that darkness. All I can see (feel?) is a growing sensation of struggling to breath. The teenager’s thumb?  The dirt compressing my lungs?  Who knows? Deep in my mind is the sensation that my chest hurt badly, struggling to pull air in past a plug that would not give; able to blow air out, but take none in.  You know the feeling.  Just duct tape your nose and mouth shut while holding a half breath of air – desperately (burningly!) trying to draw in another lungful of moist precious air – belly buckling; diaphragm hurting – and you can’t.

I don’t know what happened. All I can sense is a time of terror; of hard excruciating pain – then blackness. What does that mean?

The next thing I remember is the dirt is down to my chest; the hose has been take away. There is a weakness, a sense of confusion – then being were hauled from the dirt by my hands like a bag full of clay and set to the side of the hole. Standing up, I stumbled around; clearing the dirt from my eyes, I begin to go around the house, confused I begin heading home. I can hear the teenager laughing; his friends are snickering – my best friend, too, is confused, but I think he is confused at my confusion or perhaps … I don’t know.  He joins me was we head for my yard; the back yard, a place of safety. The sky is still blue, as blue as can be, and the white clouds are in motion again.

And the air – the fresh and open air! – tastes so much better than before, sweeter than it has ever been.

That much I remember.

Looking back upon that day – for it started out fun and ended in confusion – it’s hard to know what exactly what happened. That “part”, that “child” – keeps the worst of “his” memories from me. The shrinks say it was – or is – a form of self-protection – protecting me from knowing what happened. (I smile softly and laugh: imagine – a child protecting me, a “grown man”. Though I know that >I< am only a part of me. There is no “whole”. There is just a collage of me; a blending of others, their thought, opinions, and memories to lead me on. But even still I – and some of “them” – wonder what happened that day.

Did the teenager, pissed off at my petty revenge, decide to put his thumb over the hose? Was I “knocked out” – or did I just retreat in my mind? Why no memory of him starting to dig me out? Why the confusion, the weakness upon being lifted from the hole?

These are things I know I can never know, or perhaps might, but the one who knows isn’t talking and won’t show me all the ‘pictures’ of what happened. I mentally embrace him; and yet he turns away, just as a sad and shame filled child might do within your arms. You monominds – do you have to put up with this? This ‘sensation’ of having another, one you can mentally embrace? A part of you that is separate – but resides within you? A small child, usually sad, sometimes ashamed, but in some ways wondrous and brave?

I don’t know. As I grow older, and deal more with my ‘condition’, the more I learn – and the more I realize I don’t know about some of these “parts” of me, these things that the shrinks call “alters”. It’s a strange world that I live in – both inside and out, filled with glimmers of the past; brandings, open eyed wonders, and mysteries to me.