Chapter Thirteen: Self Harm
After arriving back in Missoula from Victoria that spring, I wanted to reassimilate myself into the community. I had not been running into any old friends, so I decided to join the Food Co-op. I thought since it had been six years since I had made the blunder of outing myself that everyone would have forgotten about it. But while I was shopping at the Co-op, I ran into the woman who managed the yoga studio, I smiled at her and said hello. She gave me a malicious look and turned away. I was devastated. I had business cards made for the Warehouse Studio and put some on the bulletin board in the lobby. I was working on an apartment that I was preparing to rent. I had installed several vinyl replacement windows and was finishing the project. The sill above the window had rotted as the window was below a flat roof and an old rotted wooden staircase and the rainwater poured down on it. The building had asbestos siding and when I fabricated the new sill it was thicker than the original and when a narrow strip of asbestos siding was put back in place behind the upper piece it covered the nail hole in the piece above it. I should have removed the sill and ran it through the table saw one more time so it would fit properly, and the narrow piece of siding would not cover the nail hole. I had already primed it, and this would have required another couple of days to complete. I suffer from OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder and felt compelled to put the nail back in the hole that was obstructed. This did not need to be done. I had my scaffolding in front of the window as I had painted the trim around it the day before. While I was prepping the trim, I was very cautious not to hit the asbestos siding with the random orbit sander. It was a beautiful day in early June, and I was enjoying being in the lushness of the yard. I was thinking about the fact that according to the Astrologer in India I had maybe another ten years to live. This contemplation on my mortality was disturbing. I also wondered what I was going to do for the next ten years as it seemed the yoga chapter was over. I was arguing with myself as to whether I should drill a hole and install the nail. I was thinking about how rude the woman had been to me at the co-op. I considered drilling the hole to harm myself to illustrate there was nothing I could do about my sexual orientation just as I could not do anything about the damage the asbestos would cause. At the same time, I was thinking I would be dead before the asbestos could do any harm. This was all madness. I should have just torn down the scaffolding and left as I had another project I needed to start. I was thinking to myself I did not want to be doing this when I was 70. I usually wore a dust respirator around my neck but did not have it with me this morning as I was only going to be painting. I was in a hurry and decided to drill the hole. Normally I would have had to get extension cords, but I now had a cordless drill. I convinced myself it would be fine and began drilling with a dull wood bit. I had thought that when the plumbers had installed the gas furnaces in the units, they had drilled all sorts of holes in the siding, and I should be alright drilling one. I am boring away and I hear a voice say I had better stop or I was going to get very ill. I stopped, not knowing where the voice came from, and then continued drilling until I broke through the piece of siding. When I went to insert a nail, it went in crooked as it hit another nail head. I was disappointed.
The next day I immediately felt the result of having drilled the hole. It was like a thousand ants were trying to crawl out my throat. Immediately I went into a state of anxiety. I can remember walking into my garage and seeing my reflection in the glass. I told my friend who worked out of his garage across the alley. He told me I would be fine; one hole is not going to kill you. My blood pressure increased, my heart rate went up, my breathing labored, and my voice was raspy. I started working on the other apartment I needed to prepare and had to leave in the afternoon and go take a nap as I became fatigued.
Immediately I realized what I had done was strip the cilia out of my bronchial tubes. I had read in a health book in grade school that there are fine hairs in our lungs that act as a filter to keep particulates out. When I was sanding with my random orbit sander to take old, flaking paint off siding before I painted, I would often stop and check to make sure my lungs were alright. This was while wearing a respirator. So, I had been consciously aware of the possibility. This is a self-diagnosis and has not been collaborated by doctors who say my lungs are fine. It is also unusual I had read double hung windows were good for our health as one could open both the top and bottom and this would allow fresh air to enter the lower opening and stagnant air to exit the upper. The vinyl replacement windows were double hung and a product of this information I had also read in the health text.