Marooned Book Reading At Housing Works Bookstore
Blood & Treasure by Scott Seward
I’ve prepared a statement. I’ve decided not to read from my essay in Marooned. I wouldn’t want its beauty marred by the less than dulcet moan of my speaking voice.
Instead, I’d like to briefly discuss how I went about writing what I ended up writing. How I dug deep, and hopefully paid homage and lasting tribute to a work of art that deserves more attention.
A couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning a bloody toilet in labor and delivery at the hospital where I work and I was trying to imagine what it must feel like to be in labor, bleeding profusely, and having to pee really really bad. I couldn’t imagine it. I could imagine sitting on the toilet and wondering how in the hell I got in this situation. I do that on a daily basis. But the combination of factors: It would be like having a gunshot wound to the head, being really hungry, and have a nagging hangnail. The life-altering and life-threatening combined with the mundane and banal. And, as others, mostly priests, like to tell us, the simultaneous extremes of almost transcendent pain on the one hand and everyday annoyances on the other hand are a constant reminder of our often humiliating and somewhat ludicrous humanity. Okay, maybe priests aren’t always telling us that. I’ve never actually been to church. Possibly one of those shaggy scatological priests from 400 years ago who lived in caves and worshipped their leavings like Howard Hughes. You know the ones. Wild-eyed. Had that wind-swept desert-chic kinda look.
At any rate, I was cleaning the blood on the outside of the bowl and using some of the fine non-toxic products delivered to me by the good people at the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology – say what you will about her husband, but the woman knows from blood-stains – when my thoughts traveled to more familiar terrain: The surge. How I hate when he says “the surge”. How I don’t generally hate when people pronounce vehicle “vee-hick-le”, but that I hate it when he does it. 40 1980’s Disco DJ Promo Single LP 12” Record Lot – Shipping 20 dollars – International bidders please contact me for shipping costs prior to bidding. Pie. What kind of pie I was going to buy. Would it still be warm when I went to the bakery to buy it. Should I call the bakery and ask them the best time to pick up warm pie. You know, the usual daydreaming you do at work.
That’s when I noticed two round masses inside the toilet clinging to the bottom of the bowl. They were red. Deep red. Not just blood. But some sort of actual pre-baby tissue. They were both about the size of three half dollars if you melted them down and then used that melted metal to make one really big half dollar. They glowed a little. They looked like jellyfish. They even had those wispy tendrils that waved slowly in the water like ancient sea life. They reminded me of constellations or stars. These thick – and yet somehow delicate – deep red blobs of protoplasm.These harbingers of more life to come. I stared, transfixed, into the toilet. Mesmerized by how life can be so simple and yet so amazingly complex at the very same moment.
And then I tried to flush the little fuckers down, but they just wouldn’t budge! So, like the cave man, or a not particularly bright monkey, I just kept flushing away. They held on admirably. They were indeed made of tough stuff. Which meant that I would have to use a toilet brush, which is what I was trying to avoid with all my idiot flushing, because then you’ve got cosmic life matter on your toilet brush and that’s a whole ‘nother thing, etc, etc.
But it had to be done. I wasn’t going to leave it there. And I wasn’t about to name them and keep them as pets. So, I got to work. A couple of days later, someone was complaining to me about whatever people are always complaining about. Job. Sex. Death. Whatever. And at some pause in the grousing I tried to make a point and I said: “Well, you know, sometimes you have to scrub if you want the hard blood to go down the drain.” I don’t know what I was thinking. Even as I said it, I knew it was like the worst piece of folk wisdom that anyone had ever uttered in their life. Will Rogers, on his deathbed, drooling into a cup would have never said anything so stupid. Or as bizarre. Well, what can I say, it was on my mind.
And thinking about coming here and what I wrote for Marooned made me think of it too. Scrubbing away at the detritus of my past honestly and creating something lasting and memorable (hopefully) in honor of someone I admire. That’s what I wanted to achieve with what I wrote. When we lie about who we are and were to ourselves and others, and play tricks with memory to change what our past was actually like, even if we only do it to make the present more tolerable, then we end up chipping away at what makes any life compelling in the first place. Which is everything. Blood, guts, everything. And when we wipe that blood away to make things clean, we’re not denying that it was ever there. We’re just moving on to the next step. In a hygienic environment free from harmful bacteria, possible contagion and the risk of viral infection.
Thank you and God bless America.