I stopped at a Tim Hortons. It was a certain Timmies I had recently read about, one where something terrible had occurred. A young woman, an employee, was set on fire by her ex-boyfriend by the dumpster pen behind the building. She had moved on, started dating someone else. He dumped a plastic bottle filled with gasoline over her head. Then pulled out a lighter.
After the flames were doused by an employee who came outside with a bucket of water, the victim couldn’t tell she was not still on fire. She survived with burns over 40% of her body. Some of the burns burrowed deep, down to muscle, tendons and bones. Fingers were burnt so badly they had to be amputated. He got life in prison, she lives behind a face that bears the reminder of a single, violent moment so extreme she couldn’t imagine it was possible even as it was happening.
I don’t believe I would have pulled into this Tim Hortons if it wasn’t for remembering about the tragedy that took place here. I didn’t really want a donut or coffee, I was drawn to it out of morbidity more than anything else.
I parked my car and walked around back. I wasn’t expecting to see anything there, no scorched ground or pieces of charred flesh. This happened several months before, maybe even a year. I just needed to see the site of horror.
I stood upon the exact spot where it might have happened, between a dumpster and a L-shaped wooden partition. First I closed my eyes to see if I could sense something different here, an energetic lingering.
I pulled a hand from my pocket, raised it lazily, looking like a half-assed thereminist. I felt no immediate vibrations of any sort.
The energy of such moments have to go somewhere, right? Suspended in that space, perhaps back down into the ground, forming trauma landfills, a poisoned well of pain. Then again, the earth has been around long enough that I’m sure a terrible something has occurred at every inhabitable coordinate. No matter where you are, you are standing in an old rape, a murder, an attack, a torture. So there was no reason to think I would feel anything different here, other than through its freshness.
Nevertheless, I got down on the ground and began arranging myself in freeze-framed poses, reenacting the attack in dramatic tableaux vivants. Stills from a passion play in the parking lot, a solo performance. On my back, hands to face, one leg kicked up, body violently twisted. On my knees, reaching forward. Back on my feet I focused on the air, gesturing to invisible counterparts. I began to speak, taking on both roles, going over the scene, trying to sense what was going through their minds in the moments leading up to the attack, trying to tap into the panic, anguish, and terror once the fuel had been ignited. Yes, I did mouth some lines. Some improvised, others remembered from the news stories. I said them quietly though, screamed in a hushed play-acting whisper, so as not to draw attention to myself in the back lot.
Get the fuck out of here!
Are you seeing someone else?
Yes, now leave me alone!
Hey, what are you doing!?
When did it hit her that she was in danger? He claimed it was an accident, how could that even be possible? Trying to understand how it could have happened came up in the moment, but it wasn’t really why I was there. I wanted something that was harder to explain, maybe impossible to grasp. I wanted to create a moment of erosis, a word that isn’t real, but neither were my expectations.
The idea of God entered my mind, but left no impression.
No matter what I tried, I continued to feel nothing. Or at least I don’t think I did. I guess I felt what I put into it, but not anything that was already imprinted into the tragedy-charged area. It was a place where there had been screams, terrified cries, faces on fire, smell of burnt hair and flesh, but now it was absolutely still. There was a dumpster and a couple empty cardboard boxes, one waxed.
For a crime scene near a dumpster, it smelled pretty good in the back lot. Sweet and toasty. It drew me inside, where I ordered a dozen “Timbits,” which are the Canadian version of a Munchkin, if that’s what they are still called at Dunkin Donuts. Is the word munchkin not politically correct? Little donut balls, donut holes, whatever. They had so many, in an array of different colors and textures. I was fascinated, giddy. My mouth watered, my feet shuffled. I counted the varieties, there were six: honey dip, brown, filled, fritter, lemon, and cheese. I ordered two of each and I was in business with one exciting and diverse dozen.
If I was looking to feel something, to experience the direct sensations of a place, I had to look no further than the donut display. Still, it was not spiritual, nor was there anything about it that one could define as “reaching erosis.” The caloric content was a little bit frightening, but sometimes I need more horror.