Life Among the Never-Winged

Once upon a time I was writing a book called, "Just Another Love Letter", about angels behaving badly. Now I just quietly ask myself each day, "What the hell am I doing?"

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Location: The Rocky Mountain Empire, United States

My friends always knew I was going to hell. My only hope is that God likes good jokes and bad redheads.

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  • Monday, January 21, 2008

    School's In

    Well. No fucking around this semester.

    Week one. Seven-page lab report, three pages of homework, and a 'battle plan' flowchart for next week's lab. (I was going to refer to my lab instructor as 'Coach', but after 'battle plan' – her term – I think I'll cut to the chase and call her 'Sarge.') First test in Medical Terminology tomorrow night. Thirteen more after that one.

    And in a couple of weeks I'll be up to my butt in cadavers. The first; a 94-year-old woman in perfect condition except, possibly, for the fact that she's dead. (I'm hoping she hasn't had a hysterectomy. I'd like to see a normal set of ovaries for a change.) The second cadaver is another woman, unusual because most donated cadavers are men. Number three is still in transit an we don't know the sex yet. It's like waiting for baby!

    Cadaver viewing is optional. There are alternate assignments. But...I think you kind of lose brownie points with Sarge if you wimp out. And really, when you're going into the medical field you should be able to handle seeing a dead body, or maybe you should reconsider your ambitions, perhaps over tea and Victoria Magazine.*

    Lecture Prof asked if anyone had ever seen a cadaver. A couple hands went up, mine included. I was ready for her if she asked for stories. I was a lab rat in high school, working summers for the same hospital my mom did. I worked in Pathology – entering data, ferrying the occasional body part, going down to the morgue to retrieve paperwork left with a body. Eeenie meenie minnie moe, pick a drawer and tag a toe.

    Every time I went down to the morgue and opened a drawer, I remembered sitting at my friend Gi's kitchen table listening to her mom tell nursing stories. I remembered one in particular. I haven't thought of it in a long time.

    Gi and I sat drinking Coke back when it was the real thing made with cane sugar, brown sediment rose petals clinging to the inside of the glass bottles. It was late, humid summer and we kept wiping off the little beads of water from the cold bottles, beads that re-formed right after our hands passed over them.

    Gi's mom and aunt were there too. If you didn't know better you might have thought they were twins. They had the same brown eyes, blond hair and open-mouthed laugh. Midwestern women just don't laugh like that. But that table welcomed it. It seemed like Gi's aunt was always siting there with a cup of coffee. She'd married well, and had a house out in the country. I visited it once, and it seemed big and lonely and empty, a far cry from Gi's old house in town.

    Gi's mom was telling us a story. She had a theory that zombie stories all started with gas.

    One night, she and two other nurses were transporting a body down to the morgue. In the service elevator the draped corpse 'let one fly.' Being seasoned nurses, they did what comes naturally; they all laughed.

    Until the corpse suddenly let fly from the other end – causing it to moan and sit up under its sheet.

    Three seasoned nurses shat themselves.

    And two women and two girls sitting at a kitchen table laughed until they nearly wet themselves. Actually, I did. Thirteen and mortified, I borrowed Gi's clothes until mine were clean and dry. But everyone laughed it off.

    It was a comfortable house that way.

    We had no way of knowing what the next months would bring. In March I would hold my brother's corpse as it rattled and moaned. And that Easter Gi and her mom would hear a gunshot upstairs, the sound of Gi's dad escaping a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

    It was the Midwest, the rust belt, a tough place. We kept things to ourselves back then, back there. Both were messy deaths, way too emotional for public consumption. So during each funeral, our friends stayed in school just across the parking lot. We joined them the next school day. No one said anything about it. To us. And we kept quiet too. We didn't say anything to each other about it, not then, and not later in high school, when Confirmation brought us back to the same little classroom.

    These things come back to haunt me around this time of year.

    O doesn't understand why really. He says I need to let it go, let it stop eating at me. I tell him that's what I'm doing here.

    Anyway. I'm not wimping out in front of Sarge.

    *I love both, incidentally.


    Tuesday, January 08, 2008


    I had a painful night last night, one that darkened my day.

    But tonight a place was set in my honor at a far-away table, complete with a glass of red wine. The place was set among several of my friends, two of whom I've never even met face-to-face.

    And that cheered me immensely. I can't tell you how much.

    I'm humbled. Thank you. Next time, I'll be there.

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    Friday, January 04, 2008


    I had a dream this morning. I was standing beside the river Styx in the pitch black of that underground place. In front of me was a low wall made entirely of stacked and lidded alabaster urns. A voice said to me, “These hold all the secrets of the dead who have crossed the river. You are charged with guarding them, but you must never, ever, look inside them.”

    The dog woke me up before I could decide whether or not I was going to keep my post or tear into those babies.*

    I've been thinking about those urns all day.

    And I've been thinking about all the secrets that I do know about other people. About all the secrets that I keep for them and from them. All the secrets that they keep for me and from me. And all the secrets that I keep for and from myself.

    And I wonder – do we take our secrets with us, or are we unburdened when we die? Is it as easy as opening a jar, whispering into it and then vanishing across a river? No longer burdened with our secrets, do we leave them for some else to guard? Or to find?

    How many would leave their secrets and how many would carry them across?

    Are there regrets either way once the river is crossed?

    I think. A story. Somewhere.

    *Frankly, I don't think they stood a chance. Hello...writer here.