The top half of our cadaver was removed a few weeks ago. We have spent what seemed an interminable amount of time on the legs. The legs have seemed boring after the face, heart, brain. And yet, more than anything else they carry our burdens…
Finals were gearing up. We were getting panicky. All of us just want to be done so we can get back to the books. Cram. Cram. Cram.
Our last assignment was to bisect the pelvis.
Two teammates held the stiff legs steady, up in the air. Using the hacksaw I worked my way through the colon. Poop smeared across everything, requiring the hose to clear the field.
Last up was the manhood. I had to cut the penis in half lengthwise. Jokes about Lorena Bobbit caught unsaid on the tip of my tongue.
Is it fitting that the woman in the group gets to do this?
I laughed quietly. Someone looked up at me, but their eyes held no judgement. We had all gotten used to the odd looks on each other’s faces, the giggles that seemed out of place. No one asks for an explanation. The truth of what we are thinking would be too… uncomfortable.
And then, we were done. Everything was piled into black body bags to be reunited with the other halves and then on to cremation or burial. Waiting families. The bags looked odd… half full, lumpy in all of the wrong places.
Some stop to whisper prayers: Rest in peace, Fred. Safe journey, Lenore. May you find peace, Harry. Thank you.
Many cross themselves, remembering the ghost stories told by our professor, the fellow who dug around in the cadavers and never wore gloves.
We all know we will never be the same again, haunted in one way or another. We are not the men and women who entered this room on the first day all those months before. We have seen horror, been elbow deep in it, and survived.
I can do this…
There is a collective moment of silence out of respect for these people, for the knowledge they have shared with us.
Then we file out.
The lights are turned off.
The doors are locked.
I change back into street clothes and throw away my scrubs in the large gray bin outside the locker rooms. The others I will burn later.
I walked away.
Or so I thought.
To this day, as I am examining an abdomen, I see an overlay of my cadaver’s insides. Liver here, kidneys there. I can see them. I can feel them. I carry that man and his body with me wherever I go.
And the smell?
The smell will stay with me forever.