We recently published Marissa Hoffmann’s thoughtful “Bodily Fluids.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I think a lot of us have regrets (all right, I think everyone has regrets), and I love how the narrator in this piece expresses theirs, especially that line at the end! Do you think, if they hadn’t killed the ladybird, they would be happier?
I think the death of the ladybird is the catalyst for the character’s reflection and an opportunity for her to face how she feels about the waste of life, the possibility that a life can be easily forgotten by, in this case, just flushing its body away. I want to question whether we are guilty of forgetting, or being made to feel we should forget? Should we, in society, commemorate the dead more openly, more regularly, share our grief? Some cultures and religions do this so well, others less so. Would she have been happier had she not killed the ladybird? No, I think she’s haunted by the possibility that she might have had a child. The possibility of a life and its value is everywhere for her and she can’t forget and doesn’t want to.
2) The narrator tells us that ladybirds don’t have a heart as we know it. What do they have?
In the story we learn that the ladybird has an open circulatory system and I want to suggest that it might be possible to believe therefore it can’t feel pain, the kind of pain one feels in the heart. As the ‘intelligent’ species, perhaps we are nevertheless guilty of not considering enough that everybody and every living thing hurts. Perhaps we allow ourselves excuses, consciously or otherwise e.g. the ladybird has an open circulatory system therefore it’s not like us, it doesn’t have a heart, it can’t feel pain. That kind of monologue, I want to suggest, may be something that appears more widely; it was ‘just’ an insect, ‘just’ a foetus, ‘just’ a (fill in the blank). I wonder whether, if that is the case, it stems from the notion that for some, sharing pain is shameful, the sound of it in the form of crying, the memory of it, perhaps in the form of a trauma or grief. I have a sense that for some, pain is more social acceptable if it is flushed away, hidden, and from the outside perhaps it could or should look forgotten.