“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Greta was in the hospital for two weeks. The first week was for her body, the second week for her mind. We have procedures to remove a person’s appendix if it becomes infected. We do open heart surgeries, and give patients insulin to regulate blood sugar in diabetic patients. Medicine can work miracles on the body. But there is no appendectomy for the mind, no insulin, no surgery that can be done when something breaks in there. Medicine knows the body, no one understands the mind. So we give medication to soothe the pain inflicted through wounds on the body, but we have no medication for the pain inflicted by our consciousness. No cures for the ailments that plague us.
So we endure. And when we can no longer endure the mental anguish, we turn our bodies off to somehow normalize the paralysis of fear, depression self doubt, pain, shame, rejection. There is no cure for these things. What if depression is simply an unnamed infection in an undiscovered “organ” of the brain. Why is it that we do not respect all forms of pain? Pain in the soul is as terrorizing as the physical pain one feels when they are ill.
So there lay Greta, in her hospital bed. Mind, body and soul broken. Greta thought a lot about hope in that bed. She thought that the thing that had made herself push so hard all of her life was the simple idea that someday things would get better. Someday she would find the magic cure to her pain. She knew now that she would not. She is alone, she is who she is. Circumstances changed life changed, her location, job, marital status, financial status, all changed, but she did not. She was and is and would always be just who she was. And there was power in that acceptance.
And that is why she spent that second week in bed. She told the doctors that she was seeing stars and that she was suffering from migraines and stomach pains and nausea, but really, she was hopeless. She knew they would send her home if they knew that she did not feel physical pain. So she lied. If she went home now, without hope, she would not make it a day. She knew that, so in order to heal, she lied. Because though Greta hurt, though she suffered, she respected her life too much to put herself in such a dangerous position, the position of being alone with herself.
She was at war. Fighting against herself to survive. And finally, the strength that had carried through so much darkness whispered to her in that bed. And she agreed with her strength that she would get up. She asked in a fearful voice if she would hurt herself. The voice deep inside said, not yet. Not this time. But I make no promises. And Greta got up, gathered her clothes from the hospital drawer, took a shower, dressed and walked out into the glorious blazing sunlight of that late May day.
Janet was waiting for her in the hospital parking lot. She looked glamorous in her ridiculous red convertible Mercedes. When Greta asked Janet how she knew she was going to leave on that day. Janet told her to shut the fuck up. She got in the car, turned up the radio, Fleetwood Mac’s, “Dreams” was playing and they drove off into the city. Greta had a momentary flash of them driving off into the sunset, or off a cliff like Thelma and Louise, but they were just going to the police station. What her life lacked in adventure, she made up for in work.
The day was nothing less than lush. Enduring months and months of dark dreary rain had its perks a few months out of the year as the greenery of the Pacific Northwest burst through every nook and cranny of the city and the surrounding countryside. Greta looked out the window as the houses passed outside of the window. She wondered what the lives of the inhabitants were like, How did other people think and live and feel? It was a mystery that was beyond her. Besides, her ribs still hurt and that was what really needed her attention.
Janet and Greta pulled up in front of the station. Janet turned in her seat and faced Greta, she looked at her with worried blue eyes and asked, “Are you ready to do this?” Greta flipped her off and jumped out of the car as quickly as one with broken ribs could. Which was actually quite slow and ridiculous. But at least she could still walk, albeit like a 90 year old pensioner, but walk she did, right into the police station and up to the fifth floor where her team sat in the briefing room, waiting for her.
Her presence was felt before it was seen. People wondered what she would look like. They did not know how to talk about what had happened to her. So they smiled, as one does when one does not know what else to do. There were flowers on her desk. Greta walked over, picked them up and unceremoniously dropped them into the garbage, muttering, “No fucking way” to herself. By doing this, she sent a clear message that she was not ready or willing to speak of her ordeal and she absolutely did not need their pity.
So there she was. There she was back at work, life back to normal. Everything back, but her. And then she knew. And the knowledge made her angry. How could she not have thought of this before, it was so obvious.
She bought a plane ticket for her and Janet the next day for Los Angeles, California. The home of the last victim, Genevieve Jones. After the tickets were purchased, she reached out to the LA police force and asked to make an appointment with the lead detective the next morning. She sent an email detailing the nature of the crime, went home, drank a bottle of wine and packed her suitcase. She was on fire.