i used to not think of the generous geography i’ve been given. those cutaways of fat and flesh, those with names i am just sloppily learning. where once stood an abandoned muscle is now the purposeful rectus abdominis. where fat, camper’s fascia. where emptiness, a physiologic peritoneal space with the utmost magical embryologic importance. a rotation, really. a fixation, most of the time.
today, i was fixed – rotating from body to body trying to correctly call things by their name. i was adam, giving meaning to wild beasts. move the intestines, i commanded, and it was done. let me see the ileocolic artery, and there it was, twisted, tortured, dressed in the life of yellow decay.
i remember your piece (and pieces) in guts (fitting for where i was today). there in the heart, you asked of feeling. in the chest, you wondered what made it breathe, what turned the air into words and language very much like this. where was the hope? what of the love?
when i saw my first cadaver, i tried to remember your wisdom. she was labeled XX. she died of cancer. her posterior lungs were a thick black, a sludge spotted of red. she most likely asphyxiated on the floor, choking, exhaling, looking for help while trying to remember a life in between coughs and cries.
when we first cut about eight months ago (has it been that long), my teammates dug in like ants, ready to glean as much as possible for the queen of knowledge. i asked if we should first appreciate her. to give her that help. they asked what that meant. i said i wasn’t sure.
i still don’t. sometimes, i feel close. mostly at night, when all else pours away. i see her in my dreams. i hold her hand. i tell her i am sorry. her eyes are closed, thinking of her lost thought, dreaming her last dream.
i try not to disturb her while wrapping myself in her insides. i expect warmth. i meet cold. then, in a deadened methodology from one artery to one vein to one body to another, i trace her years of youth, when she started smoking, how it was because of a break up when she was fourteen, which was really thirty back then, and how she first learned to dance with the walls that never stepped on her feet and then with the boy that did and then with some men that didn’t have the bravado to try and don’t forget those girls too but it was different back then but how nice it felt, all of it, especially to feel fully and uncertainty and with the hesitance of a life before and after. i touch a nerve by mistake. she doesn’t move. only i do.
there is an exam, as there always is. one station to one more. at a buzz. a stop. a start. she is there, still dead, still prodded. in between this display of being so right that it could kill someone, i thought of your words, your wishes, and i hoped the noise didn’t wake my cadaver. though if it did, i imagined it all sounded like awkward dancing – the shuffling, the ticking, the beat that is irresistible if in the appropriate music.
but i still cannot dance. this much i will never not know. my feet are greyed anatomy, cement blocks in a construction site during the apocalypse. i wonder if she could dance. her toenails were painted a rich ruby. her feet size were the same as my own.
then, i found out i got perfect on the exam. how foolish. i was even emptier than the bodies splayed. what of the soul? i did not even find a single soul. i did not see anyone dance. i was more dead than the dead.
this is all i wish to say. it isn’t much. but at least, it is not a final word. at least, it is not right.