Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Certain Kind of Love

This summer, as I was doing some hiking,  I listened to a story about a married couple, a man and woman, who were scientists and lived in Africa to study animals there.  They slept in a van and lived isolated but for each other, for months at a time, observing and studying.   The kept only a few possessions in their cramped quarters. For entertainment they would read the completely works of Shakespeare to one another. When they finished, they'd start over.  They'd dance to music in their heads or to the cacophony of sounds coming from the creatures around them. They loved what they did, and they loved each other, for over 30 years. 

At one point they encountered an angry buffalo.  It was nighttime and they were alone.  They describe the events as they remembered them where the buffalo first attacked Dereck, throwing him violently into the air and then attacked Beverly, impaling her with its horn.  It entered at her armpit, through her chest and neck and throat, broke 21 bones in her cheek. Her eye orbit collapsed and her collarbone was shattered.  At one point she woke up to find herself a) shocked to be alive and b) being carried along as the buffalo ran.

Dereck, having suffered broken ribs and a cracked pelvis, looked up and saw Beverly being dragged freely into the dark.  He managed to shorten the distance between them and kicked the buffalo on a spot where it already had a wound, which reopened.  He said, "if that hadn't happened, she would have been dragged off into the bush and we would have heard hyenas later on."

He put his finger under her nose to see if she was still breathing, something that in her hazy state of consciousness, Beverly was aware of.  She remembered thinking, "My gosh, Dereck thinks I'm dead."   The buffalo returned for a second go, at which point Dereck jumped over his wife and ran at the buffalo, got knocked down once more, and then the buffalo finally ran off. 

Going against first aid wisdom, he picked up his wife and carried her, not wanting to leave her in the dark.  They both walk-stumbled until they came to a wooden deck where she said she couldn't go on any further and remained there for the next 11 hours. He began to administer first aid.  He says, "The biggest thing was I had to stop the bleeding. So ultimately, I wrapped a bandage around my fist and inserted it into her chest. I changed the bandage every 20 minutes but basically left it there for about 6 hours. I needed to get that bleeding to stop. She lost about 5 liters of blood. Then, at 2:32 she died, and I had to bring her back from that. And then at 4:40 she died again.  But the journey through that was much more than an exercise in first aid, but also keeping everybody calm. When I had my hand inside her chest, I realized that her lung had collapsed.  And her collarbone was smashed. But even then, I had no idea how deep the horn had gone and that it had gone into her skull.”

When asked if she remembered dying, Beverly said, “I don’t recall anything like a long tunnel or anything like that. Before that moment, I had gotten to a point where I realized the amount of blood that I was losing and my body was getting weaker. I said to Dereck, ‘please don’t overdose me with painkillers.’  He said, ‘why?’  and I said, ‘I want to be fully conscious. I want to be fully conscious because I think this might be the last time… and when that time comes, I want to be able to say goodbye.’”  Help finally arrived and they both lived to tell the tale some years later.
The whole story was rather touching and impressive since this is an example of a kind of alternate life I can see myself living (or tell myself I can see myself living).  Living somewhere wild, incorporating myself into the land, doing important work with someone I love.   This couple never had children, unregretfully, and that's a life i could have imagined (and did) for myself as well. For whatever reason, I don't sit and look at my life and say "I couldn't imagine it any other way."  There are a lot of ways I can imagine it going, actually.  As I listened, I realized that it may be that my life is far from wild, and wildly adventurous. I admire this couple and desperately wish I was doing something similar, even though I have serious doubts about whether I could actually hack that kind of rough lifestyle. But in spite of all this,  there is at least one thing that I identified with perfectly.   His simple description of events struck me with a feeling as familiar to me as my own body, and one that finally gave words to a heretofore indescribable certain kind of love and partnership, and I said, eureka, that is exactly what it feels like for me: Being married to Sean is like having his fist thrust into my chest cavity, for however long it takes. And it is the best, most comforting and fundamentally life-sustaining thing I know.  

Happy fifteen! FIFTEEN, whaaat. 


2 comments:

Ashley said...

A million hearts for this one. Gripping story, a twist at the end when you connect it to you, you and Sean... Happy 15 indeed.

Diana said...

This story is insane!!!! I can't believe she lived! And I love that it turned into you professing your love for Sean and 15 years 🎉