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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Life’s Great Difficulty

posted by on June 21 at 9:59 AM

The recent story about the woman who spent her first three days of death in a bathtub—a story that was first discovered by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee and later recycled in the PI by Robert L. Jamieson Jr (sans any mention of its source)—this sad story brought back to my mind a line in “Phinda Mzala (Whispers In The Deep),” a song by Stimela, a South African blues/jazz/jive band.

The line, sung by the band’s leader and founder, Ray Phiri, is this: “I’m the horse that ought not to be flogged/I’m as difficult as a dead man.” What the bathtub story offers is an excellent example of this type of difficulty—the difficulty of dead person, which is the dumb difficulty of their deadness. It’s not an existential difficulty—or at least it’s not initially—but one that is purely physical: the lifeless body itself, the absolute weight of the dead on the living.

From the police report:

Once they arrived at his apartment, the two of them smoked marijuana and engaged in sexual acts. At around 2200 hrs, the woman went into the bathroom to take a bath. He then left to the 7-11 up the street to buy beer. He returned to the apartment about 20 minutes later and noticed that the unknown woman had not come out of the bathroom… On opening the [bathroom] door, he saw the woman lying one her back on he bathroom floor. She appeared to be dead. He shook the unknown woman, slapped her face, and waited for a response but none appeared. He started to panic and began contemplating what to do next…

[He] went out of his apartment window and began digging a hole along the side of the apartment complex. He wanted to bury the unknown woman. But while digging the hole, he felt as if he was doing the wrong thing, so he refilled the hole, went back into the bathroom, turned on the cold water in the bathtub, and put the body in the cold water… He spent the next three days in his apartment drinking and contemplating what to do with the body.

Had the woman been alive when he opened the bathroom door, then how easy she would have been to him: she stands, towels herself, puts on clothes, and leaves the apartment. But the woman refused to leave. She was dead. She was being difficult.

RSS icon Comments


Sometimes I die just to be difficult.

Posted by monkey | June 21, 2007 10:09 AM

Surprisingly difficult. How rude.

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 21, 2007 10:11 AM

When I first saw Jonah's story I thought of Small Town by Lawrence Block: The serial killer needs a place to stay. Everyone's looking for him. So he "tailgates" behind a woman entering her apartment building; forces his way into her apartment; kills her; puts her in the tub; and adds cold water and ice for the next week to keep the smell down.

He also feeds her cat, because it's easy. That cat's not going to call the cops.

When I read Small Town, I thought, "Cold. Practical, and cold. Emphasizes that the killer may be killing for crazy reasons, but he's still a good problem-solver. Oh, and ew. Glad that's not real life."

Of course, now it is real life.

Posted by JenK | June 21, 2007 10:15 AM

I like this post.

Posted by Lindy | June 21, 2007 10:20 AM

God, I hate it when that happens.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | June 21, 2007 10:31 AM

Josh thinks Lou Reed's Street Hassle shares some similarities with this story too.

Posted by Jonah S | June 21, 2007 10:33 AM

that totally happened to me one time.

Posted by adrian! | June 21, 2007 10:43 AM

Well, kudos to you for at least taking care of the cat!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | June 21, 2007 10:53 AM

Sounds like a sequel idea for Risky Business 2. Tom Cruise getting interviewed by Princeton U while there's a party going on w/ hookers who wont leave, but the twist is now that there's a dead hooker in the bathtub and the princeton guy has to take a pee. What's Tom going to do next?

Posted by brad | June 21, 2007 11:37 AM

OK, so the son complained about your story. Well wasn't the woman reportedly a prostitute? Some supportive son he must be. When he goes pointing a finger of blame at the Stranger you forget there are four fingers pointed right back at 'cha.

Posted by Touring | June 21, 2007 11:37 AM

Stop being soooo Difficult!
All you do is lay around here doing nothing!
You are dead weight to me.
Geeesh get a life!

Posted by -B- | June 21, 2007 12:44 PM

She wasn't be difficult. He was refusing to take advantage of the system our society has set up to shield us from the dead and their burdens. If he'd called the police, the coroner would have come and removed the body. Upon being claimed by the family, it would have been taken by an undertaker to a funeral home, where she would have been made to look like she "was just sleeping." She would have been buried, and only occasionally thought of.

If you compare this to the systems for disposing of the dead in other societies (hiring professional mourners, donning special clothing for long periods of time, throwing yourself upon the pyre of your dead husband), we've minimized the inconvenience of a corpose in the room to the point that getting your cable fixed is a bigger imposition.

Posted by Gitai | June 21, 2007 2:58 PM

if he stashed his dope outside his apt., where is the danger is calling the cops?

nothing proves they had an illegal transaction.

Posted by maxsolomon | June 21, 2007 4:59 PM

love the last three sentences

Posted by Vooodooo84 | June 21, 2007 9:07 PM

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