by Alphaville Herald on 25/04/10 at 4:21 am
[In response to Mark Stephen Meadows and Peter Ludlows' analysis in H+ magazine, Margarite Hermosillo offers this account of the last days of her sister Carmen Hermosillo (aka humdog, aka Montserrat Tovar, aka Montserrat Snakeankle, aka Sparrowhawk Perhaps). While the game gods, board trolls, and various factions play out their games, I hope this account will help put it all in perspective - Pixeleen Mistral]
by Margarite Hermosillo
Hmmmm… this is weird, where could Carmen be?
Friday, August 8, 2008. I had spoken to Carmen at 2 p.m., and it was now 4:30 p.m. I had sent her an e-mail at 4:08 p.m., asking if her new employer had called her. They had taken her to lunch on Tuesday, the last step in their approval process. They wanted to make sure she would fit in with the group, as they all worked together in a farm house in the middle of a strawberry field. Got to be one of the family, they had told her. Don’t let them see your car, I told her. Park down the street. Carmen was not the best driver on earth, and with all her dings and dents, side mirror hanging down by the cable, her car wouldn’t make a good impression. Now she thought that they would be calling her to go and sign the offer, she was sure of it. Maybe that’s where she went, I thought.
But it was now 7 p.m., and she hadn’t answered my e-mail or returned my call from 4:30p.m. It was odd, because Carmen was tethered to that computer. She always answered right away. Even when we lived in the same house, I would be too lazy to walk downstairs to her room and I would e-mail her. She always answered.
I slept fitfully, with a sense of foreboding. I left my computer on in case she did write. Carmen left her computer on non-stop, and it was so noisy. Can’t you turn that thing off once in a while, I would suggest. It was soooooo old radiator.
Saturday, August 9, 2008. Nothing. Too bad her dog Jack can’t type, I would write to him and ask him what was up. I try to call, no answer. No word from Carmen all day. Just too weird.
Sunday, August 10, 2008. Lunch with friends in the afternoon. We talk about Carmen, and they agree that it’s very strange, in a bad way. Nobody eats much.
Monday morning, August 11, 2008. I have to do something, something is wrong. I look on the internet for a while and suddenly, it pays off. I have found the phone number for Carmen’s landlady. I dial the number and she answers. “Uh, is Carmen over there?” “Oh, she says, you didn’t know. She passed away.” I have to sit down when I hear this, it’s too much. I barely hear her when she gives me the coroner’s phone number, but I write it down.
Carmen was a year older than I was, and we couldn’t have been more different. She was intellectual, brilliant, talented and totally eccentric. I was a plodding conformist who had to beg the high school art teacher to change my grade to a D so I could graduate. Carmen liked complicated things and books with big words. I liked cartoons and Mad Dog 20/20. When Carmen first got a computer, I thought, it figures. She’ll do something complicated with it.
These are the things I thought about that Monday morning as I threw my things in the car and drove towards Santa Cruz. I called our friend, Ron Massey, who lived up there, and asked him if I could sleep in his guest room again. I had just been up there a few weeks earlier. We had taken Carmen to the Santa Cruz pier for her birthday. Carmen died, I told him. No way, he said. Sigh, way.
I got to Santa Cruz around 4 p.m. I called the coroner’s investigator, and he was glad to hear from me. He told me that Carmen’s body had been recovered on Sunday afternoon, and he had personally taken Jack, her dog, to the shelter. I could understand that, Jack was pretty cool. I asked him when the autopsy was going to be. No autopsy, he said. Carmen died from a sudden cardiac event, he explained. We found a bottle of blood pressure medication she had gotten a week earlier. But going to a county facility for an impersonal 5 minute visit doesn’t constitute being under a doctor’s care, I explained. You have to do an autopsy. No, we don’t, he said, there was no foul play, she was obese, she had had lupus, and hey, he said, once you have lupus, you always have it. Not so, I said, Carmen no longer had lupus, she was no longer taking the prednisone, and she had tested negative for lupus.
But the coroner didn’t buy my argument. I told him I would be by the next day. I figured I would continue my argument when I saw him face to face.
I called another old friend, Merrie McFarland. Merrie had gone with us to the pier a few weeks earlier, and she was momentarily speechless. Merrie mercifully offered to help me sort through everything. Another sleepless night.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008. I pick up Merrie and we head to the coroner’s office. The coroner gives me Carmen’s purse and tells me that they have too many dead folks, so they try to avoid the autopsy process whenever possible. What happened, I ask him. He tells me that Carmen most likely had a sudden arrhythmia. Carmen had been found face down on her bed crosswise, with her head at the foot of the bed. She had bitten her tongue and had bled a little. But she had died instantly. But how can you know exactly what the cause of death was, I whine. The examiner looked at her and can tell, he told me. He’s very experienced. The coroner informs me that Carmen’s death certificate will say that she died on Sunday, August 10. But I know better. I know that she was gone when she didn’t answer my e-mail, sometime after 4 p.m. on Friday, August 8. The coroner then tells me that they have a call to go to and to call him if I want to talk further. Merrie and I leave. We find a little cash in Carmen’s purse, and we have breakfast on it. I search Carmen’s purse for any written notes. Nothing. Just way too many pens.
After breakfast, Merrie and I go over to Carmen’s. Carmen’s place is a small house on a big lot. The landlady lives next door. She’s not home. I let us into Carmen’s house with the keys from Carmen’s purse. Merrie and I have a big job ahead of us. Before we touch anything, I have to do what I do best. Investigate. As a retired police officer, I have to look first. Having seen homicides, suicides and all forms of cides, I go into action. I know I have to examine her place before we move anything.
I go into Carmen’s bedroom. I see the small blood stain at the foot of her bed, just as the coroner had described. The covers on her bed are askew, but it’s not too messed up. I look for a glass of water by her bed. None. The phone isn’t on the floor, it’s on the table, with the receiver in place. There are no signs of a struggle or fight, of someone grasping and trying to hold on to consciousness. I look for a note. Carmen wrote everything down. There are tons of journals in her place, but nothing left by design. I look for medications, and find a bottle for the one I knew she took: Dyazide, a diuretic. Nothing else. I had given Carmen money to buy groceries for her birthday present, and I note that she bought bottles of wine. That’s the Carmen I know, I thought. I had given her a grocery store gift card, so she wouldn’t go to McDonalds. Forgot about the other stuff. I know that Carmen didn’t kill herself, but I still have to check it out. I don’t see anything to suggest anything other than what the coroner had said. I go into the kitchen and see that Jack’s food and water bowls are empty. Carmen never would have left Jack with no food and water. She adored that big goofball. In fact, the landlady had told me that it was Jack who got her attention on Sunday, running back and forth between the two places and barking. He must have been hungry and thirsty, I thought. Carmen would never do that on purpose.
In November, 2007, Carmen had gone to the dentist, who took one look at her gums and sent her for an EKG. Carmen had failed the EKG, and the doctor had told her that she had the beginnings of heart failure. She might live 15 years if she got medical help, he told her. When Carmen told me, I suggested that we go see a friend of mine who was a doctor. He will treat you free of charge, or he’ll bill me, or whatever. Let’s go, I said, jumping up and down and waving my arms like I was trying to land an errant aircraft. But Carmen didn’t want to go, she was afraid of all things medical. Well, I told her, at least stay out of McDonalds and Burger King and all that. And walk the dog on his leash, instead of taking him to the dog park where he runs around and you sit. But Carmen didn’t take my advice, and I found fast food bags in the yard where Jack had strewn them after licking the cheese off of them.
In the days before Carmen died, we talked often. She was walking the dog, she told me, and was trying to diet. It was easier where she was living now, because there were a lot of produce stands with cheap produce. She told me that she knew she needed to change some things. One of the things she felt she needed to do was rid herself of her online life. She told me that she was going to cancel it all because she felt dirty and decadent, and it had gotten away from her. She had reconnected with her church in the Santa Cruz mountains, and was enjoying seeing her old church friends again.
Merrie and I called the old church friends, who fell out in a big group. I gave them all of Carmen’s things so they could sell them at their yearly sale. Carmen would have liked that. I gathered all of Carmen’s journals, a sizeable collection. In some of them, Carmen had written one page and then set the book aside, starting on the next journal. I gave her piano to a young man from the church she had been teaching. He was overjoyed. I noticed that Carmen’s neighbor was having a yard sale, and I went over there. The lady told me that they were trying to raise money to buy pens, pencils and paper for the school year. Come with me, I told her. Have I got a deal for you. Carmen must have had 1,000 writing implements and tons of blank paper. The lady was overjoyed. She also took Carmen’s couch and some other things.
I called the lienholder on Carmen’s car and told them to come get it, as Carmen had left the stage. A tow truck driver took it away, the only time I broke down. Watching the driver load the car on the flatbed with its dangling side view mirror was too much for me. It was definitely the end of an era. The only comedy relief we had was that we had loaded the car up with trash.
The church friends were wonderful, they brought trucks and took everything away. Except the computers. Oh how I hated that old radiator. I turned it off, and it came back on. By itself. I did it again, and again it came back to life. Look at this, Merrie, isn’t this weird? And I showed her how it did its trick. I looked at the jangled mess of wires. I got down on the floor and traced the lines. I then just yanked it all out of the wall. It did not come back to life. But a strange thing happened. People started calling and asking for her. Lots of calls. I found out later that Carmen’s computer was a server. Lo siento, I told them. It’s over. I loaded Carmen’s computers into my car. I wanted to have my friend clean them out in the event that they had Carmen’s personal information in them.
Merrie and I took Jack’s water bowl, a big chewy, and his favorite toys to the shelter. I was interviewed about Jack’s personality and the lady told me that there was a family waiting to adopt him if I would sign a release. But first, the lady said, they needed to know if Jack had ever bitten anyone or if there was something like that they should know about him. Yes, I told her. There is something. The lady’s face fell. What is it, she asked. Well, I deadpanned, you can’t turn on the hose and water plants in his presence. He will trample the plants to get into the stream of water, make a big mess, choke on the water and go hysterical barking. Then, he jumps on your bed soaking wet and lies on his back with his feet out and a big smile, tongue hanging out to the side. Black lab heaven.
I didn’t go in to see Jack, it was Merrie who went in. I figured if he saw me it would be traumatic and he would wonder why I was leaving him. But I wanted the family to have him, because he would be a great family dog. I signed the release and gave the shelter lady a donation for taking care of Jack.
After that, we were done. I had been too busy cleaning up Carmen’s place to reflect. But now, driving back to LA with her computers choking me out in my little car and aware of the fact that I couldn’t slam on the brakes, I was a captive of my own grief.
Carmen’s refusal to treat her heart condition was not suicidal, in my opinion. It was fear. Carmen always thought that if she ignored something, it would go away. She did that with bills, rent, calories and family members who asked her questions. Carmen’s sense of terror always frustrated me, basically because I couldn’t relate to it. I knew her life was a mess in so many ways, and she seemed powerless to overcome things. Carmen must have known that whatever had caused the bad EKG was running its course, yet I imagine that she was terrified of finding out what she needed to do to treat it, or even what it was. She had had a hip replacement operation, and she had been so terrified that right before the operation, they had been unable to draw her blood. She had been so panic stricken, that her blood had receded, they told me. They had never seen that before. They had to shoot her up with a tranquilizer to get any blood out of her. Such profound fear. As frustrating as that was to me, I knew that she was an original, a person who would wash her clothes and then string them up on the clothesline and hose them down to rinse them. Who would think of that?
I last spoke to Carmen at 2 p.m., a few hours before she died. I know she had been unable to sleep because of her unemployment condition, which she had blamed on a former colleague. But she told me that she had taken the blood pressure medication, that it had worked, and that she felt wonderful and could no longer feel her pulse in her ears. Even though she was very tired, she told me that she was going to take a shower and get dressed up, because she knew that the company was going to call her that day. I mentioned that it probably wasn’t a good idea to drive out to the boonies when she hadn’t slept, but she said she felt wonderful and was looking forward to it, looking forward to accepting the offer and finally being employed again.
The company did hire her. A week later. They hadn’t called her on Friday, it turns out. I suggested that they go with the runner up. The man cried on the phone when I told him why, telling me that even though he didn’t really know her, he could see that she was totally brilliant and unique. I could hear him calling to his co-workers on the phone, telling them what happened, and heard everyone in the background expressing their grief for someone they had just met a few times and hardly knew. Carmen had that effect on people.
The author, Margarite Hermosillo, is Carmen Hermosillo’s younger sister. Margarite is retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, and is currently employed as an investigator for the County of Los Angeles. “Zero Dark Thirty” is a phrase popular in police work that Carmen found very amusing.