The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
I call my dad from the car and ask him about his morning, tell him about mine.‘What kind of hoarder was she?’ he asks.
‘Books and cats, mainly,’ I tell the man who loves his cats and who I know is now actively considering his extensive book collection.‘
What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?’ he wonders.
We are both silent before we laugh and answer in unison: ‘Faeces.’
But the difference is this phone call. And the others like it I could make – and how strong we are when we are loved.
Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…
But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less. A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.
Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead-and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.