Five bodies, and you make six.
The crumpled forms lay atop icy metal tables, suffocating under thin, white sheets. The
cloth is reminiscent of the ones children wear for play on Halloween. I like this costume you
have on; it hides the real ghost of you beneath its interwoven threads. In this place, I can imagine
you as you once were—happy.
I want to remember the polaroid version of you. You photographed so well.
Snapshots of you were visual depictions of every lovely feeling to be had by someone.
You looked like a first kiss, a summer night’s bonfire, red lipstick empowerment and neon-light
art. You were all of the good things, and none of the bad; never too much, never too little.
I still remember the way you laughed. It was your most distinguished trait and although
your laughter may not have filled the room, it filled my diary entries with details of the good
days. You, with your oversized corduroy jacket and disobedient curly hair, were my good day—
You once gave me a quarter, because you said I was worth more than a dime. I hate
change, but that coin still rolls around the bottom of my purse—your initials etched upon it in
The polaroid version of you was picture perfect; an Instagram feed of every shade but
Red solo cups, green forest trails. Orange Arizona sunsets, blue coastal waters. A
following of five hundred, a group chat of thirty-two, a schedule of a dozen too many weekend
plans. I flipped through the digitized glimpses of you and saw your popularity, wealth,
athleticism, successes, adventures… When I think of you sitting across from me with a smile too
wide for your face, I am perplexed at how you could possibly be anything other than happy.
But this memory I have of you is a false one.
You were not happy—you were not anything. In reality, you were as you are: a body. A
skeleton of warmer weather, devoid of all breath and sound. A desert of an ocean, a tomb still
playing host to a dead man. You were not happy, nor unhappy. You were nothing at all—and
then this nothingness consumed you, and you became everything to everyone.
But you were my everything first.
My perfect everything.
Reality grabs a fistful of my hair and yanks backwards, forcing me to look at things as
they were before you were swaddled in that white cloth. We are not to speak ill of the dead but
the fact of the matter is that you were not perfect. Sometimes you were unkind, whispering
malicious slanders. Sometimes you were dishonest, trespassing loyalties like a fox into a
henhouse. Sometimes you were pathetic, stumbling to the bathroom and vomiting vodka down
your crumpled frame.
Sometimes you were not polaroid perfect.
I do not like to remember this version of you and with the white sheet still draped over
your flesh, I can continue to use that blank canvas to paint you as I please.
Reality rips the tapestries away, gripping the sides of my face with unapologetic
vehemence and forcing me to see things as they really are, and not as they were in those pocket-
Subject One has a body riddled with the signs of old-age. He was a husband, brother,
father, and grandfather. Now he is a numbered body bag. It is hard to differentiate the wrinkles in
his skin from the glass-filled gashes covering his flesh. When this skeleton had life, the man
decided to drive his car into the base of a cliff without a seat belt on.
On that same road, a mother of four jumped off a particularly treacherous road-way
railing. Subject Two took three days to find and when her body was recovered from the bottom
of the ravine, there was hardly any of her left to bury in the ground. This mother forced
motherhood upon her fourteen-year-old daughter who became the primary caretaker of her three
younger siblings. Their father became inhibited by drugs and contempt.
Subject Three was twenty-one years old when he overdosed on pills. The boy was
already sick, taunted by voices to hurt himself and his family. He did not want to do either, so he
swallowed a handful of drugs and did both.
Subject Four is an anomaly. She was nineteen years old with loving parents, a devoted
boyfriend, and a volleyball scholarship—yet there was an illness in her mind that wouldn’t
dissipate. She is anomaly because, statistically speaking, most women swallow pills or slit wrists
when taking their lives, but not her. She went to the local wash, shotgun in hand, and stuck the
front to the back of her throat. When she pulled the trigger, she blew her skull apart. It took them
six days to find her, and they had nothing left of her face to reconstruct for her mother.
Queen Creek High School held a candle-light vigil for Subject Five. Yellow was the new
black and the jests of wanting death to escape copious amounts of homework were temporarily
subdued. It is devastating that we had to wait for tragedy to make us kind, but at least we became
kind—even for the briefest of moments. For many, my Subject Five was their Subject One. It
was chilling for them to realize that the subject of so many perfect polaroids was now just
another name to be published in the town’s obituary—a throw away name whose memory would
fade like the ink lettering of the newspaper his lifespan had been printed upon. It was a closed-
casket funeral, so that he would not be memorialized by the bruises around his neck.
Now there is you, my great and terrible Six.
You are naked and unmoving. Your stomach is bloated and your flesh branded with the
earthy tones of rotting tissue. The stench of you makes my nose burn, my eyes water, and the
urge to gag undeniable. You reek of chemicals, as if the toxins had been soaked into your very
pores. If not for the preservatives you had been doused in, your flesh would likely be consumed
by maggots burrowing into your decomposing organs.
There is a red stripe lassoed around your neck. The skin is badly irritated and swollen in
areas to make you seem victim of some terrible ailment—besides the one that had already
“A necklace of hope” is what you called it. Those were your last words, composed into a
tweet and posted to hundreds of timelines.
It received nine favorites, and three retweets.
It is repulsive to think that we found your agony poetic.
We are not to speak ill of the dead, but there was no beauty in your death. I simply wish I
had told you how much beauty there was in your life. I will not write a love poem to your
Five scars, and you make six.
I forgive you. Please, forgive me.
I am so sorry for only seeing you in polaroids.