The first time I cleaned a freshly dead body, I called you. I was submerged in a hot bath hours after my shift ended, Prosecco from the bottle to my lips, and I told you about the eyelids that crept open and disrupted my feeble attempts at sleep. I told you about the color of squash that highlighted the seeping skin and the prayer I said aloud when I held the cold hand alone in the room with this stranger I met with no pulse. I didn’t know the name, and if I knew it, I wouldn’t have told you anyway. All I could think about were the eyes. You told me about the first dead body you met. About the lives you tried to save; how quickly they slipped away. About brotherhood. About God and how you released the things you saw in your mind’s eye, the things that kept you up at night, to God because they weren’t yours to own. And I was grateful that it was only your voice coming across my phone this time and not your face like many other times we’ve talked like this because you’d see me crying and I can’t take you seeing me cry again.
You knew I’d cried long after I put a smile back on my face, and it wasn’t so terrifying that you could read right through pages I’d bound in leather because there was something comforting in the way you said my name or knew which buttons to press and just how hard to get a rise out of me. It felt like lines from a story I’d written years ago and found again, skimming over the words because they were already so much a part of what fell from my lips it was as natural as breathing. And each time you slip those words in before the silence I smile with the patience I’ve cultivated from living a life impatiently because I’m always in such a hurry and don’t take ten seconds before I speak even though I tell you to try it.
Simply, you make me smile, especially when I’m scared and can’t sleep and am feeling a certain kind of way. I don’t think I’ve thanked you for that but I don’t imagine I’ve spent all my words on you.
Originally written April 12 2018, in a room covered in little lights.