Hell eluded me as a child because I found it almost impossible to comprehend a place in a perpetual state of fire, emotional pain, physical struggle, and torture. There were always breaks of happiness in life, so I couldn’t imagine dwelling in a place where I’d get no relief from my daily bouts of Fibromyalgia back pain and suffer from constant emotional anguish.
And if this place called hell preyed upon you and your worst fears, I’m sure I’d come across several thousands of wasps, hornets, and carpenter bees. Not that I spent my summers in fear of going outside, but it was very rare that you’d see me out in the afternoons when bees were more than less likely to be buzzing about.
As I grew, I learned about others’ versions of hell ranging from a cold, dank, and lonely place that cut you off from interaction with all creatures to somewhere that is so entertaining, that one charges admission for ringside seats. These versions I heard were just as unique as fingerprints.
But it wasn’t until I grew to an adult, that I saw a glimpse of what hell was truly like, and it was a far different place than anything dark that someone imagined. The reality was a horrific shock because the hell I witnessed was nothing like Dante’s Inferno or What Dreams May Come, no. My hell had ivory wall-to-wall carpeting, and it boasted perfection from one end of the house to the other until the day I moved in with my family.
* * *
The paper splay at the foot of the driveway and I went to go pick it up as quickly as I could in the dark and with a cup of black coffee in one of my hands. Normally I drink it with cream and sugar but it had been an especially long night and the only thing that would make me function was coffee so dark it could be mistaken for rocket fuel.
As I walk back into the house, I set my cup down and pull the paper from the bag and grab all the store circulars and place them on the credenza. I then grab all the previous days advertisements from off of a section of the ivory carpet in the split-level house that my family and I have now come to call home.
As I toss them into a garbage bag, a few coupons boasting of a huge dollar of savings at a restaurant grabbed my attention. The burger appeared to be a diabetic, colonoscopy, coronary attack waiting to happen, but I didn’t notice it for that. The yellow-tinged relief that soiled the perfection someone was trying to sell me made me almost laugh and it would have been a huge belly laugh but it was still too early in the morning for that. Sport, my adorable, but agoraphobic Cocker Spaniel, had done his normal 4 am ritual on the carpet again.
It was tedious to keep up with cleaning up after him, but days like these, I seemed to treasure the smile he gave me by poking fun at the fakeness of what some Americans deem as food.
Sport used to love the outdoors and walking with his BFF Scout, a bull terrier mix who lived directly across the street. I had grown to love our early evening walks with Scout’s owner, a married middle-aged woman named Trina, who was a caregiver to her aging mother.
The fresh air and the understanding conversation gave me a perspective on my own struggles with my maternal side. The days meshed into one another when I spent them caring for my mother and my grandparents, her parents. The four of us seemed inseparable, enjoying the warmth of the summer evenings and good exercise. That is until that joy Sport had got bitten out of my poor puppy the day a mean-spirited Rottweiler crossed our paths.
It was like every morning. He was being a sport of a dog and minding his own business by keeping to the sidewalk, never straying onto the front lawn of some other dog’s territory. But the Rottweiler was defiantly different, thinking no one should walk around his neighborhood unannounced. Tearing through his restraint, he padded over to us rounding the corner of his street and then explained why we should leave through some sharp, pearly whites he displayed with proudness.
Sport yelped knowing he was treading in hot water but also understood his duty in distracting the menace away from my direction. The cries Sport made as the terror bit into his flesh pierced my heart while the growls from the Rottweiler twisted into me, causing my heart to bleed for the pain Sport was enduring on my behalf. The foam-forming from the menace’s mouth as passer-byes and I tried to pull the two apart just added salt to the injury.
It seemed everyone heard my terror-filled cries except the owner of the menace. A snotty-nosed youth of a woman with a checkbook suddenly appeared before me as I was scooping up my 25-pound dog in my arms. She apparently thought a few dollars would solve any post-traumatic stress that may have occurred from her negligent behavior.
“He’ll be fine I’m sure. Mine is just grumpy from his demodectic mange. How much do you want for the vet visit? Is $100 enough?”
The amount she touted wasn’t nearly as insulting as the sight of the checkbook she waved about. It appeared weightless as I struggled with the 25 pound trembling mass in my arms. At first, I blinked thinking the simple act would allow me time to process such stupidity. When she saw that my mouth wasn’t moving she started in again.
“My little guy is usually such a sweetheart. He didn’t mean to hurt yours. I’m sure he only wanted to play.”
After I blinked once more I managed a few words that connected. They were internal damage with how dare you think you could predict how much this could cost. I wanted to spit the fire I was fuming but my trembling mass needed me more than a rich bitch with her husband’s checkbook. She agreed to exchange numbers after a neighbor who was a police officer insisted that she do that and I started out towards my house.
My house, though only a half a block away, took longer to get to that day. I’m not sure if the constant banter in my head about the dog’s health had more to do with it, or that 25 pounds of near dead weight sprawled across my fibromyalgia riddled arms. Keeping a hold on him was a feat that seemed almost impossible to bear with every step, but I had no choice, he’d run if I put him down and it wasn’t like Finn was home to help me.