In the evenings, Sarah sat down and told me about her day working in the ICU. She told me about a young man with cancer whose bowels were impacted and how he was probably going to die. She told me that he’d developed an Anorectal fistula. I said, “What the fuck’s that?”
She told me that’s where the body essentially creates a new asshole for you. The acid burns right through the skin and leaks shit.
I said, “The body can make a new asshole for you?”
Sarah told me that the body can do anything. So I imagined my body making new assholes. I imagined myself covered in assholes. Assholes, assholes, and more assholes.
And then she told me about another the guy who was in need of a fecal transplant. She told me about his wife and how she cried and looked afraid. I said, “What? Wait. A fecal transplant?”
She told me about how when the body has been through so much chemo it no longer reacts to antibiotics. So doctors will transplant feces back into the body of a patient. There is bacteria in feces that will fight against infection.
I said, “Does it have to be your own personal feces, or will it come from like a feces donor? If so, does the feces donor have to be family/related to you?” Sarah told me to shut up.
I asked, “What about accepting feces from another species? Would monkey feces have the same impact?”
Sarah told me to shut up.
Then I asked her why she believed in GOD. I told her this god she believed in must be a madman. I told her this god was really shitty at what he did, or maybe he was just something else. Maybe he was just lazy as shit and incompetent. Sarah shook her head and smiled. Then she asked me, “You want to know what nurses spend their money on?”
What do nurses spend their money on, Sarah?
Titties. Fake Titties. That’s what they spend their money on.
She told me about how one of the nurses used a credit card to pay for a breast augmentation. Sarah asked the woman if she was nervous about not paying back the money for her operation.
The ER nurse just pushed out her chest and wiggled her tits around and said, “I’m not worried. They don’t repossess titties, girl.”
And so Sarah told me about the worst tattoos she ever saw on patients. She told me about taking off this kid’s pants one day, and he had two tattoos. They were on his knees. On his right knee was a tattoo that said, “Fuck.” On his other knee was a tattoo that said, “You.”
Sarah wondered why people didn’t tattoo themselves with the truth. She wondered why they didn’t tattoo things like, I’m Sad. She wondered why they didn’t tell who they were. I am not a butterfly. I am not a unicorn. I am not a snake. I’m afraid. I have panic attacks. I like to steal shit. I never loved you.
And then she told me about the saddest tattoo she ever saw. She told me about this guy from North Carolina who was brought in with gunshot wounds to his chest and spine and throat and head. His sister had been living in West Virginia with her baby daddy. The baby daddy beat her. So the brother from North Carolina came up for the weekend to protect his sister and have it out with her boyfriend. He brought his pistol. He stayed with his sister and kissed her bruised face. He touched her pregnant stomach and he held his nephew. He played video games with his niece. He imagined himself inside of a video game.
That night he waited for his sister’s boyfriend. It was 1:30 at night when he heard the car door shut. He took his pistol and walked outside. Sarah told me that there was an argument, and then there were gunshots. And then the brother was on his way to the hospital with a bullet in his chest and a bullet in his spine and a bullet in his throat and a bullet in his head. There was an operation and he was brought to the ICU. Sarah hooked him up to the intubator, and it was obvious he wasn’t going to make it. Earlier that day, he’d been playing video games. He’d been throwing the football. He showed his nephew how to fade his hair. And now here he was, and he was dying. His mother drove in from North Carolina. Sarah kept him alive long enough so the mother could say her goodbyes. Sarah was hanging another IV when she noticed the tattoo. It was tattooed right above his pubic hair and ran the length between his hips. What did it say? It said: BEDROOM BANDIT. Then beside the words Bedroom Bandit were two small pistols, and the pistols were smoking and then beneath them...
What was it?
It was a couple of tattooed pussies, and the pussies were smoking too. Sarah heard the Bedroom Bandit’s mother outside. She knew that the Bedroom Bandit wouldn’t want his mother to see his bedroom bandit tattoo. So Sarah quickly threw a sheet over the bandit. The mother came in and she was crying, My baby. My baby. She stopped crying and then thanked the Bandit for being her son and then she thanked god for allowing her to be his mother. Then she started talking about Saturday afternoons long ago. And then she touched his stomach and the sheet started to slip. Sarah thought, Oh shit. She’s going to see.
Sarah said, “Oh I’m sorry” and tried to put the sheet back up on the man but the mother stopped her. The mother pulled it away and looked at the tattoo. She took her fingers and ran them over the length of the tattoo. Sarah said, “I guess sometimes we do things we don’t want our moms to see.”
His mother didn’t say anything for a long time. So Sarah thought about the true tattoos.
I hate myself. I’m alone even when I’m with someone. I quit dreaming my dreams a long time ago. Then Sarah said the mother told her, “No. I’m glad he liked life. I’m glad.” She told Sarah that her son dressed up like a ghost when he was in the third grade. Then she repeated, He dressed like a ghost. Sarah didn’t say anything.
And so that evening I asked Sarah what she thought happened to people when they died. She said she thought that it was all just energy—even after you die. The energy you leave behind is who you are. Then you become part of the energy that came before you. I told her that sounded like new age bullshit to me. She told me to shut up. She asked me what I thought. I told her, “Nothing.” I told her the oxygen escapes from your brain and then you’re gone. I told her about this scientist during the French Revolution. He was about ready to be executed by the guillotine but he decided to have one last experiment. He told his assistants to gather around the platform, and once he was beheaded he was going to blink as many times as he could. This would show how long a brain is still alive after it is severed from the body. It would show if a head was still conscious after it was cut off.
The blade dropped. The head dropped and rolled. The scientist blinked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times and then the face blinked no more. He was able to blink five times before the oxygen was completely gone.
Then I asked her what type of funeral she wanted. She told me she didn’t want a funeral. She wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread at the Turner farm and in the New River Gorge. She giggled and said she wanted to become the wind. Then she asked me what I wanted. I told her I wanted just a cardboard box wrapped in a blanket and then put into the ground. I wanted to be the host of my own worm party. I wanted to rot. It’s what all the great ones do. Then I whispered, “I looked to the gods and wished for 10,000 birthdays. They were granted. Sadly, I forgot to ask that these days be days of youth.”
Then I told her that if I lived longer than she did, I wasn’t going to have her cremated. I was going to have her buried with me.
No you’re not.
Yes I am.
No you’re not.
Yes I will.
No you won’t. I will. You won’t.
You won’t. I’ll be the wind.
Not if I have anything to do with it. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. Well, if you don’t cremate me, I’ll haunt you. I’ll be your ghost.
And so here I am years later and I think of the tattoos inside my guts and skin. I have no tattoos on the outside but thousands of them inside my skin. They say: Why did you leave? Why. But then there are others: No one looked at you like I looked at you. No one loved you like I loved you. No one. No one.
And so I look in mirrors and I find myself staring. I look in mirrors and I do this. I blink.
I go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
And then there is nothing except the world exploding and a million stars shooting across the black, black sky.