Life Life’s Great Difficulty
posted by June 21 at 9:59 AMon
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.