Halloween special: scary stories
One of my author groups sent me a challenge: to write a horror short story for Halloween.
I passed. Trust me; you don't want me writing horror stories. Some scenes of my life beat anything you've seen in the most hair-raising movies.
One time, when I was only 18, I jumped six feet underground into a mass grave in the cemetery––yes, one full of dry skeletons. Like an amateur Indiana Jones, I landed inches away from a pile of bones.
With the only protection of thin latex gloves, I proceeded to load half a dozen skulls inside of a plastic trash bag—some of them still had hair attached. I also grabbed a few femurs and pelvic bones on the way—some of them were still entangled in rags of old clothes.
I'm not making that up! My university was short on teaching specimens, and I, along with a few friends, volunteered to go get some at the cemetery. (Yes, in the Dominican Republic, it is that easy. And no, it's not illegal. All you need is a letter from your medical school.) The cemetery guard half-jokingly dared me to jump in the grave. He expected me to chicken out and offer him money to do it. But, my cluelessness has always been bigger than my fear (thank God); I thought he was serious, and I jumped in. When he saw me do it, his jaw hit the floor.
My friends and I then had an informal party disinfecting the bones in boiling water with calcium carbonate before bringing them to the lab.
Did you think that story was disturbing?
My stories of walking among the dead are nothing compared to my stories of walking among the living—especially those who are living, but wish they weren't.
Really. Some human beings do weird things to themselves. It begs the question are they secretly trying to put an end to life?
One New Year's Eve on shift at an Emergency Room, I helped suture the arms and legs of a guy who'd just engaged with another guy—just for fun—in a drunk machete fight. It was quite common in the ER. (And here's where my civilized, American-born husband rolls his eyes, chuckling, and mumbles, “My wife definitely comes from an exotic place!”)
Besides a couple of fractures, this patient had so many sharp wounds the senior resident and I had to divide them between us, or we wouldn't finish with him before the end of the shift. “You start with that arm, and I'll take this leg,” I remember the resident telling me.
Luckily, the guy was so drunk he wasn't worried. When we got annoyed with his cussing and babbling and offered to reverse his drunkenness (give him intravenous dextrose), he got offended. He scoffed at us and mumbled with his slurred speech, “Are you out of your minds? My rum is a hundred times more effective than your wimpy anesthesia.”
And drunk-machete-fighting may sound dumb, but it isn't, by far, the worst thing we humans do to ourselves.
Don't get my nagging inner-doctor started. People do horrible things like smoking (that's the worst of all), over-drinking, over-eating, sun-bathing without sunblock, texting while driving, playing with fireworks…
Speaking of playing with fireworks! That reminds me of a third of July when a trauma surgeon friend of mine, on call over the holiday weekend, sighed in resignation and announced, “I better go to bed early tonight. Tomorrow is People-With-Missing-Fingers Day.”
But all that physical self-damage we humans tend to put ourselves through is nothing compared to all the emotional self-damage we do. The worst of all? Co-dependent relationships.
Forget about Soap Opera nemeses who blatantly lie to you, push you down the stairs or backstab you; the worst damage often comes from those who once claimed to love us.
Why do we pair up with people who treat us badly, and then stay with them even as they hurt us again and again? People who are jealous and controlling, people who use emotional blackmail, people who play victim and manipulate us with guilt, people who are blind to our gifts and hold magnifying glasses over our faults, people who see the worst in us—and so, bring out the worst in us.
Yes, there's no worse Dracula than people who suck—if not our blood—our energy and joy of living. I am so thankful I learned to get away from those vampires.
The best explanation I ever read for why we let that happen is from Don Miguel Ruiz. He says (and I paraphrase), “Nobody treats you one milligram worse than you treat yourself. If they did, you'd leave immediately.”
It's true. Back then, when I still hung around vampires, I was behaving like my worst enemy. I used to be harsher to myself than to any other person in the world.
There's not a horror-movie witch scarier that the inner witch who used to criticize me every time I looked in the mirror.
Yes. Co-dependent relationships and bad relationships with ourselves have to be the scariest thing I've seen.
And I'm a cancer doctor—don't get me started on that.
So, no. Trust me. You want me to keep being this writer who writes funny and sweet stories with happy endings—even if I'm already hearing that people find heart-wrenching, moving, “poignant” moments in my books, which slipped away from my hands along with the comedy when I wasn't looking. A little sadness to make joy even brighter later is okay, but take my word for it: you want to keep me all Pollyanna, rainbows and unicorns. You want me to keep writing romance and inspirational romance-mystery and silly stories about the world of dating in The Boondocks. You want me writing about hope, joy and faith and naming my books with those words.
Because if I didn't…
…who knows what would happen.
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Sexless in the boondocks
The series "Sexless in The Boondocks" was temporarily interrupted this week due to Halloween. It will resume again next Newsletter. Don't miss one episode! Sign up here to receive the next chapters in your mailbox.