How Did She Look I Must Know
by R.S. Bohn
I read a book detailing the decomposition stages of the human body. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d been wondering how her body looked after three days, after seven. On the nineteenth, how did it look? And now I have an idea. For a week, bloated belly, deflated breasts. Trapped gases eventually make their way out, and we move on to putrefaction. It’s the brain I’m most interested about. The brain dissolves and dribbles out in no time, as if it was just waiting for this day to escape.
I read a book about the location of the soul. The solar plexus gets the popular vote, but some say brain, others say every cell, and then some say no soul. I disregard the atheists and ponder the brain. If it dribbled out her ears, is some part of her soul now mixed with the sand and dirt in the ditch they found her in? Maybe this is why murder victims never leave the scene of the crime, why their ghosts are inevitably found hanging around. If your brains were blown out in the kitchen while you were slicing mushrooms, perhaps your soul is in the linoleum and the paint of the cabinets. Every time someone gets a can of baked beans, you shake all over again.
There was this book about the grief process, and my sister stares at me and tries to identify my level while she sips coffee and I tell her that the eyes are gelatinous and probably went to mush in a few days. She frowns. She asks me what I’m drawing. I won’t show her, and she looks at her book again. Book, me, book, me. Finally, she leaves, and I’m so glad to sit in the kitchen alone again.
The book of watercolor papers belonged to her, but they’re all blank. She still had another book of papers with some left in it, and she was studiously filling them with foxglove and lupine and sunflowers. So I take down her tins of pencils and fill in the blank pages of the new book with pictures of her in various stages of decay, based on what I’ve learned. When I get to the end, my hand kind of hurts. I pour water on the entire book, cup by cup, and watch the watercolor pencils run. Now it’s authentic, I think. They all run together, red and brown and black. Week two in the ditch. Almost authentic. I leave it on the floor, even though the linoleum is filthy.
Thirty-three days since she put together ingredients for Emeril’s spinach and mushroom tart. I drive out to the ditch and leave the keys in the ignition. Someone’s left a teddy bear and a cross and some other shit by the road, as if trying to keep her soul from the highways and by-ways of human transportation. I pass the barrier and nearly slide down the gravelly little hill. There is the pipe, a trickle of water. There is a ring of plastic from a six-pack and an empty gin bottle and a black shoe. There is nowhere that feels like her. Not like our bed, which feels like her every night, not like our kitchen cabinets, which I have caressed again and again and shut gently.
Pages of her flip through my mind, Polaroids, and some are the ones the police showed me. I lay down in the spot. I think, Day one.