I’ve taken two showers this week. It’s an improvement over the last few.
In the lab, the cadaver is well dug into; I am late. Her leg muscles are so much shredded meat, so I say to myself “meat machine, meat machine,” over and over, a mantra against puking.
The smell is fecal, not chemical. The preservatives, even the sweet undercurrent of a body about to turn, I can live with, but this shit – I almost lose it. I spend a few minutes wandering around, examining the heart. I hold it in my hands. It’s so much bigger than I expected. She’s an average size woman, normal, feminine hands. The polish has only just begun to wear away from her softly rounded fingernails. Unlike me, she probably didn’t want to die.
Then there are lung tumors on another table to see, to palpate and poke at, until finally I see I am in front of the table where she is – what’s left of her – and I forget there was a smell at all. It’s incredible, really, what we become accustomed to, what we make room for in our experience when making it stop is not an option.
My job is to follow the path of the urethra from the kidney to the bladder, to separate it from nerve and blood vessel, to trace its attachments where I will see the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the uterus. The uterus!
It’s a small, hard thing, tight with muscle. I know by heart how the muscles run, in rings around it, in stria from top to bottom. I know how it will stretch and pull and grow, but no one, not even the mother, knows what grows in there. Poet or madman or champion or murderer. The mammals do what we evolved to do, and another baby is met with joy, because dread has no place here. That comes later.
I take myself to the hardware store, the home improvement warehouse, where anything can be dreamed of and built. It’s all about hope in these places, all about a future and the self-affirmation of planning for one. If I can find the right color paint, or the caulk that will finally, irrevocably fix the leak, everything will be okay.
My heart will not break, my child will turn to me with love in his eyes and hug me, my garden will grow and I will write all about it for adoring fans. If I find the right path, the connections, origins and insertions. If I cut just right, there will be no pain, only an opening up, for examination, all the things inside that need fixing.