The Bits that Haunt Us

Yesterday, I saw that WordPress was having a writing challenge.  I like challenges.  This particular challenge was to write a story with exactly fifty words–no more, no less.

I tossed around a few ideas (some of which I might flesh out a bit and post here later in the week), but the one that spoke to me most was this one:

The autopsy noted sixteen stab wounds, a ruptured aorta, and multiple defense wounds. Amid the sterile notations, the report memorialized the purple panties that you chose that last morning—before you went to work and fought for a final breath, before you decided not to call in sick after all.

As with most stories, this one has some background to it.  The first autopsy report I ever saw was my aunt’s.  I had ordered a copy of the report not long after my aunt was murdered.  A few of the details included in it seemed horrifically personal.  Not the detailed descriptions of the wounds–I had expected that.  But the fact that it detailed her underwear, her jewelry, those personal things that we pick out and choose to wear because we like them, because they reflect who we are.  These things seemed so out of place among the meticulously chronicled weight and dimensions of each bodily organ.

Life is uncertain, and bits of it will haunt you until its end.

For me, it is that blasted pair of purple panties that I never even knew existed until I read about them in an autopsy.

A few years back, I wrote to a near stranger and told her about this.  At the time, I thought I told her the story because she needed to hear it.  In reading her blog, I thought I saw her spiraling out of control.  I wanted to reach out to her.  To steady her.  But, if I am being honest, it was really that I needed to tell the story.  I needed to be steadied.  She asked if she could share my private email on her blog, and I told her she could.

Once again, that autopsy and all of its secrets have risen up in my mind.  This time, it gave me these fifty words to share.  I don’t know if I am sharing them because someone else needs to hear it, or if I just needed to tell it again.  Maybe it doesn’t really matter.

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Gay Carter
10/9/40 – 11/13/98
(This is why I hate Friday the 13ths)