In approx. 2000, a family bought a home 8 or 10 houses down from the one of my childhood on Forest Drive in Jericho, NY, on Long Island.

The houses were not identical but similar enough that they both had a crawl space open on either side below the concrete steps leading to the kitchen door in the backyard. Upon moving in, the family noticed an old, sealed metal drum in the space and moved it to the curb for town trash collection. The town told them they had to open it to determine how to handle it, such as trash vs. recycling.

When the family unsealed it they discovered a mummified body. Residual chemicals and the airtight lid kept the body intact as well as the purse belonging to the body, which was once a living, pregnant woman.

Helped by the preservation of the contents of her purse, investigators determined that the drum and body were in place for 30-40 years (which spanned most or all of my childhood and then the first part of my adulthood, when I would still come home to visit). The previous owner had a factory in NYC staffed with illegal immigrants. He had an affair with one, and when she became pregnant and somehow threatened him with it, he killed her. He and his family then lived above and next to and around her corpse for the next several decades.

What level of denial, or, in a perverse way, strength of character does it take to live with that kind of compartmentalization? How does someone raise a family and then live with his wife of a lifetime before retiring to Florida while this corruption and evidence of cosmic selfishness lies underneath? And then the continued malformed and disfigured perseverance, thinking he can control the vertiginous depth of the crime when confronted with it in his retirement home, asking the police if his wife needs to be told.

I must have passed the house thousands of times during the tenancy of the drum and its corpse. The house and its hidden degradation of humanity was in line with a path I walked to elementary school and biked to the local pizza place and candy store, was an anonymous facade not too distinguishable from those around it as I sped by in the back seat of my mother's car or the driver's seat of my own, so typical in my neighborhood to be no more worthy of attention than one of the hundreds of trees or millions of blades of grass on the same route, a flat facade of quaint modest pleasant existence made dimensional only by the corruption swelling inside, finally, passively, blowing open like a mushroom spewing spores, or a wound softly breaking open from the pressure of subdermal pus.

This was eventually turned into an episode of Law & Order.