The Wriggle of Grief

“The worm of doubt has long since found a home in my intestines. I no longer know what to trust or what is right. I get a macabre comfort from my worm. The worms that will eat you are first eating me. You won’t feel the blunt head burrowing into your collapsing tissue. You won’t know the blind persistence that mocks sinew, muscle, cartilage, until it finds bone.”

The worm of doubt is an apt descriptor. The way doubt wiggles and squirms and feels wrong, like a parasite is inhabiting your body and you are no longer you, but taken over by something outside of your control. The narrator is taken over by doubt, fear, grief, and love after Louise dies. They lost themself in her, they found themselves in her, and when they lost her, they lost themself again.

Throughout the novel, the narrator has been a blank canvas, shaped by the desires of their lovers. They blew up urinals with Inge, begged Frank to go to England with them, and went to church with Bruno. But Louise “has translated [them] into her own book.” (89). She dug them out of the hole they were in, and patched the missing pieces of them with her own story.

I also interpreted this line as the narrator starving themselves out of grief or a loss of appetite due to grief and depression. I’m aware that it’s a stretch but with the heavy connection to the body throughout the book, ties to identity, and the queerness of all of it, it allows you to project parts of yourself onto the narrator. While many projected their ideas of gender based on aspects of the narrator (particularly emotional competence, violence, and their interpersonal relationships), I reflected aspects of depression onto the narrator, and way it causes you to lose sense of who you are. Louise was the narrator’s reason to live. On page 107 the narrator thinks “What is the point of movement when movement indicates life and life indicates hope? I have neither life nor hope”.

The worms are both literal and figurative. Figuratively the worms can be so many things. It could be their grief at the loss of Louise, that’s taking over all their thoughts. The ”macabre form of comfort” that grief can bring is the loss of apathy and the dulling of the senses. It’s raw and painful, but the grief itself is a comfort because it’s real, visceral and means they truly loved Louise. The grief is a reassurance that they can feel. The worm could also be love, particularly the parasitic way the narrator loves, by taking pieces of their lovers to build themselves anew.

The worms are now eating at Louise’s corpse. She’s buried and dead, six feet under, and with that loss of life, loss of love, the narrator no longer feels alive. It’s also a ”macabre form of comfort” to the narrator that Louise will never have to feel the same grief that the narrator is from her loss, because the dead can no longer feel, but the living have to. What I am really trying to say here is that I think the narrator is losing themself in grief, both grief that Louise is dead, and grief that the only person who saw them for who they really are is dead.  It’s both a selfless and a selfish form of grief, nevertheless it’s all consuming and bone deep.

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An Ember in the Wind - They/Them or Fae/Faer pronouns - Here, Queer, and my Joint Pain is Moderate to Severe - :)

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