S2: Episode 11 - Tammy

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode 11, Tammy.

Tammy: When I think of the word endurance, I think of elements like tree, like bark, an ax, a knee. I think of bone, I think of wood when it comes to humanity and endurance. I think about toil and not giving up <foreign>. The day was Mother’s day. I had just finished my shift at the library. When I got home from work, I was switching gears and I had a camera that had some film in it. It didn’t rewind on its own, so, so I went into my bedroom closet and I pulled the door to, pulled it to with my hand, and it snapped into place that the, the, the latch clicked. The door was closed and I was in the dark and it didn’t open, and I was trapped inside. Fully the first minute was a big gasp of horror. A gasp of horror. I felt like the air had been sucked out of the closet. I didn’t even try to scream. I sat down and kicked with all my might with my right foot. I felt for weaknesses against the hinges. There was no latch, no doorknob on the inside. I thought, loss of light, sunset coming, more darkness. Where’s the air? I can’t breathe. Is anybody going to come?

The terror came in waves. It would come when a new realization, a new possibility entered my mind. I thought of my heroes, my ancestors. I thought of survivor stories. I had to try to remember where the latch was and how do I get to it? How do I break through so that I can get out? I used wire coat hangers and scraped against the door. I found a metal rod in a garment bag, and on the second day, I found a key that had a pin knife in it, kind of a retractable pin knife. I had to work like a, a trapped animal, and it was a gnawing. It was a scratching, a, a crunching a, a jabbing that was voracious. I was famished for a bigger hole in that wood. I, hunger is real. I felt myself very weak, malnourished, and definitely dehydrated. It made me sad.

I did sip, um, a couple of sips of my own urine the final morning. It was an extreme relief to have something liquid going down my throat. For sustenance I created a chant of all the people that I know and love, and I found myself standing up again, taking the knife in my hand and starting to chisel in time to the chant in my mind. I love mom. I love Ted. I love Brianna. I love Miranda. I love Cesar. I love Dulce. I love Claudia. I love Natalia. I love Rodrigo. Just chisel, chisel, chisel. Well, it was about nine o’clock on Tuesday when I finally released myself. I kept thinking I can get my fingers through. Let me see if I can move the latch. And I tried it, and it worked, and the door moved forward and I felt this. It was like a sudden blast of cold air.

Really all it was was moving air. It was just a bigger space. In that two and a half days of being trapped in the closet. I missed many things. I missed the sky. I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to have the sky above us and around us. I hungered for a commitment to my art that was urgent as the chiseling I was doing to that door to get out. I felt sad. Being in a closet was what it took to make me see that I hungered for juicy fruits like bananas, cantaloupe, melon, Sandia, luscious salads, dripping with nectar and juice, lettuce, freshly washed spinach leaves, tomatoes. I I hungered for optimism. I hungered to keep on living. I hungered for space and time in a different way. I hungered to use all my senses again. I hungered to tell this story outside of the closet.

[Outro Music]

Host:  Tammy speaks of surprise and desperation and of her many insights. She’s a poet and artist. She reminds us that we are all hungry for something. Tammy said, “I felt sad that being locked into a closet made me realize that I hungered for space and time in a different way, that I hungered to see the sky and to use all my senses again.” We are thankful for Tammy’s strength, her powerful words and her wisdom. May something in her story stay with you. I’m Michael Nye. You may go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for photographs and transcripts. Stories are open windows into a world larger than our own.