Nightmares and Packaging Tape

To this day, the sound of packaging tape makes me break into a sweat and my mouth dry up. I get chills and goosebumps on top of those chills and I begin to think that this might actually be the time that I throw up. Do you know what I’m talking about? The sound of packaging tape? It’s when someone starts pulling away a length of the roll, and it’s that screaming tear of a sound. That rip.

My wrists start to tingle and itch, and my ankles and knees begin to feel swollen and hot. Before it happened I never knew how many places really used packaging tape out in the wide open for everyone to hear. In Target, representatives are taping together pieces of a broken toy to be returned to the manufacturer as defective. They don’t know that it reminds me of the worst day of my life: blackness but sound, outside of the magnificent pounding in my head the first thing I hear is that long, screaming tear; then the heat of the adhesive on my skin as my wrists and ankles are bound, then my knees.


A washrag over my mouth and then a strip of tape over that too. Going out to eat, some manager is taping off the doorjambs so that someone can paint. Suddenly, I feel like I’m choking on my food, but at the same time I’m remembering how I didn’t eat for so long, only the lint from the rag tickling my throat and the coughing and gagging for hours. I would have never thought that something so simple, such an every-day item, could have changed my life the way it did.

I’m sure so many people who have gone through the same thing agree. I heard once about a woman whose kidnapper drank soda, and to this day she can’t be near the stuff. She can smell it a mile away, she swears. Or the guy who can’t be around dogs, because all day every day he listened to the mongrels barking while he was locked away in the dungeon of a basement. I often wonder when the panic will subside. When the normalcy of life, over an extended period of time, will wear down the intensity and sharpness of the terrible memories, like the way the movement of the ocean against sand wears down the edges of glass. It’s still glass, but it’s sea glass now, foggy and smooth instead of clear and sharp.

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