First to last day
Eyes slowly open
everything is new to me
innocent and small
Learning happens fast
talking, walking, loving
it feels safe to grow
Growing is scary
who am I supposed to be
trial and error
Kids, jobs, bills, stress, life
always playing catch up
someday we’ll relax
Someday came and went
there are just memories now
eyes slowly close shut
The Two of You
I didn’t even realize I’d actually died until this very moment. Paralyzed here, bleeding her blood that I guess is now my own, feeling impossibly both foreign and familiar. I laid on the table and stared directly into the bright light above me. The room was chaotically loud but warbled and no one voice was indistinguishable from another.
Obviously this is never the intended outcome when you come in here; to die. It’s always a risk that everyone tells you to not worry about. She was an notoriously anxious person and had researched to the verge of nervous breakdown this exact occurrence. She was apprehensively optimistic for a positive outcome. Poor thing. She was one of the casualties of the holistic statistic now.
I could feel the tugging and pulling. The assembly process. Frantically doing the interal organ puzzle to make it all fit back in the abdominal cavity. The pile of entrails being stuffed back in like a magician‘s scarf trick in reverse. How was I supposed to function in this hallowed out frame?
I must admit that in this forced state of incapacitation, I was bothered that I couldn’t have taken pieces of who she was with me, but, only the best pieces. I didn’t want all her trauma or baggage or fucking neuroses. I wanted the parts that people spoke so highly of, how cool she is or rather, was. She was the tomboy that cleaned up nice. She could tell you a filthy joke with enough profanity to make you squirm but then sing you beautiful choral arrangements. She couldn’t draw or cook for shit but she could write you a five page paper about the best meal you’d ever had. She was just cute enough to not be intimidating but was able to use her words to demolish you in a debate. Who knew if I’d have any of that coolness latently reside in me.
I felt like a shell. Some started from scratch noob. Everything was going to be very different from here on out. I know nothing. Oblivious.
I suddenly had a wave of realization wash over me. This is always how it was going to be! She didn’t have to die for it to happen either. She and I were always going to have this transference, a turning of the guards. She had lived her entire life knowing this moment was coming. I don’t know if that is a blessing or a curse. A little heads up for me would have been nice.
My eyelids started drooping. I could hear a voice say “Wait” but couldn’t tell if it was me trying to communicate to someone else or someone communicating to me. This shit is all so confusing. Oh, I do have her profanity in my lexicon. Good to know. There was no use fighting it. I drifted off and hoped I’d wake up again, unlike her.
It didn’t feel like too long I’d been sleeping before I was awakened to a beeping sound. I felt this body for the first time and it was achy, sore, numb but also burning. Great. I’d inherited some kind of fixer upper body. I lifted my head off a crinkly pillow but I couldn’t any further up off the bed.
“You’re up!!” A singsongy voice filled the room, she was dressed all in pink scrubs. How did she know who I was? “We’ve been taking good care of you two while you’ve been recovering.“ She disarmed the beeping, smiled and she fiddled with some cords and wires. Wait? Did she say “the two of you?“ Did she survive after all? Scrubs darted off, her blonde ponytail whipping behind her as she disappeared.
Okay, let‘s see if we can get oriented before she returns. There was a board that had Scrubs real name “Brooklyn” on it. Figured. Then it said “Nikki”. That was her name. Spelled wrong though.They must have been expecting her and now I was going to have to be the bearer of bad news as Nikki with two K’s and an I’s. I rolled my eyes.
I could hear Brooklyn coming back down the hall and I tried to form some words in my heavily sedated state to tell her that she was talking to someone else and the two of us, her and I is, would have to figure out together who the other two were and who I was exactly. I figured having some help couldn’t hurt, especially since it seemed I was not in fact able to speak.
She was pushing a cart with a clear container on top. A little blue bundle of blanket was in the container. Was this the other part of “the two of you”?
“You gave us quite a scare, I’ll tell ya what!” Brooklyn giggled and shook her head at me. I squinted my eyes, letting that be my “What are you talking about?” response. She continued “we took you in for the C-section because this guy here was in distress and then once we got him out, you had some complications and we had nurses and doctors working like the dickens to get all the bleeding under control. We lost you for a minute there! Gave you a little jumpstart and you came right back. Good, right? We put you all back together almost as good as new. But, you went to sleep just Nikki and now you are the Dunn Family!”
It hit me. I was still technically me and her. I was now someone’s mom, something and someone I had never been before. I was starting from scratch. I was going to need help. I was going to need to learn how to function in this body. I was still going to need the profanity! She was the person I used to be and I now I was completely changed. Same name, completely different person. She had prepared me in her own way but knew there was absolutely nothing that could have truly readied me for this moment.
Brooklyn raised the bundle out of the bassinet and pulled the blanket down just enough to reveal his mushy sleepy face. Despite the fact my body was in a basically an induced coma, I felt every fiber of my being light up with just that one little glance. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and got all my tubes wet. Brooklyn placed him gently back down and dabbed a Kleenex against my face.
“shhh” she whispered. “When you get your strength back, you and this little bubba will get to know each other.“
I managed a small smile and felt such a relief that the culmination of this entire experience was Him. She and I would die a thousand times over for one look at that little bundle.
No lies detected
"I always knew there was a possibility that all this technology and shit would put me out of a job, but, like … " the words no one was listening to anyway started drowning in the next big gulp of the umpteenth drink I shouldn't have had. My vision blurred as I came up for air and squinted to see the television behind the bar. Another breaking story, another murder. I rolled my eyes and took down another hefty gulp. Empty. Great.
"Bartender!" I hailed him over, as if I didn't already know his name and he hadn't already been on this journey to rock bottom with me over the last few years.
"You know I can't serve you anymore." He pulled the empty glass away and dunked it into the soapy sink. As if it being wet and covered in bubbles would stop me from drinking it from it. We both knew it wouldn't.
"Jake, these people are dying all over town. Not just dying. Being murdered! I know no one wants to talk about serial killers anymore because technically we shouldn't have them anymore but we do! Turn around and look at the tv right now, it's happening as we speak!" I put my head on the bar and stared down at my feet. These feet that used to take me to every crime scene, to every family member's house, to every courtroom. "People use to be excited for me to show up, you know? People used to praise the techniques and experience. I solved so many cases. I solved them! Found missing people, brought evil to justice time and time again. They think deTect is going to do the same? It's not! It hasn't!!! It can't find this guy. He's out there, killing at will, laughing in their lens while he stands over bodies, Jake."
"I know, I've seen the stories on the news."
"Why hasn't deTect found him then, huh?" Tears welled up in my eyes. Not to have Jake feel sorry for me being an ousted detective, replaced and discarded. I just knew that those families would be asking the same thing. If this stuff was so fucking great, why couldn't it do the one thing it was supposed to be able to do?
"I know no one cares anymore what a human detective thinks anymore but I'll tell you one thing, Jake. He's getting away with it because deTect is letting him."
Jake pulled another glass up from under the bar and poured me another drink. Truth serum.
"The guy is a ghost. Not literally but technically he is. Nothing pulls up in deTect when they scan him. He has no history, no profile, no id. He doesn't exist. Except, obviously, he does. Everyone thinks he must be some criminal mastermind, avoiding being caught, not leaving DNA behind. He isn't a mastermind; he just doesn't have any of that data to get pulled. I think this Enigma Killer is able to get away with it because deTect can't recognize someone who is already dead."
Jake went to pull the drink back from me, seemingly concerned and confused. I let him take it. I didn't need it in this moment.
"Jake, think about it. deTect is only a few years old and only loaded information that was available for every living human in the last five years. All dead people 20 years back. What if this guy was "dead" before then huh? Maybe he was a solider lost in battle or a fisherman lost at sea or a victim himself presumed dead. All these instances, no body. No body to get DNA from. He's a walking, talking, murdering proof that deTect is ... flawed. Worse than a human even. Worse than even a drunk like me, Jake."
I got up from my seat and threw the crumbled twenty dollar bill on the bar. I was going to take myself somewhere I could use my dumb human brain and catch a ghost.
Every version of you
He came around the corner to see the woman he’d loved with every fiber of his being for so many years uncharacteristically crumpled on the cold hardwood floor, sobbing. He knew as soon as she answered that call she would fundamentally change forever and he would have to learn to love a new version of her. Without saying a word, he laid down beside her on the ground, pulling her close so she could feel the comfort of something familiar in this earth shattering moment.
Once upon a time is such a cliche way to start a story but here we are. Sitting outside this nondescript building, I wanted nothing more than to turn the key in the ignition and drive away. I did what I said I would; I came here. I could omit the fact I didn’t actually go in. It would be our little secret, the building‘s and mine, that I never actually went in. If I never go in, I don’t have to start this cycle all over again with a new therapist. Someone with the best of intentions who will ultimately tire of their lack of success in turning me into a normally functioning human being. With a deep, reluctant sigh, I slid out of the car door. Here we go again.
An Unrealistic Bliss
I awake in sheer panic, frantically fumbling for an alarm clock I surely forget to set or have been completed ignoring. Through shuddering breaths I realize I had no need to be awoken so early. I scan the sounds of the house in this new morning light. Why do I not hear the sounds of competing iPads, blasting YouTubers at deafening volumes? Could it be the humans I’ve made might actually still be sleeping, even though the sun is risen? I quietly slip out of my bed and tiptoe through the house. An aroma is filling the air. A steaming hot cup of coffee and a cheese Danish is sitting posed on my completly bare and sanitized counter? I take the piping mug into my grasp and my eyes meet our family activity calendar. Everything has been crossed off for today? How is this plausible without inclement weather or glitch in the time space continuum? My Roomba hits my foot, and aboutface turns to continue its work without prompting. I take a nibble of the pasty, fully assuming it would conjure someone asking for a bite who would then proceeds to chew loudly with their mouth open, triggering my misophonia. No one appeared. Instead, I stand in the quiet, clean, caffienated fantasy, or what is most likely a delusional episode or psychotic break. I close my eyes and breathe. I curl up on a freshly fluffed couch with an orgasmically soft blanket and exist for myself for five whole minutes.