Sometimes I Think About Death and it Kills Mehttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/1.jpg?fit=1281%2C1920&ssl=112811920Riley MorsmanRiley Morsmanhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/754CB5DE-3698-43DD-BBF0-125C12024657.jpeg?fit=73%2C96&ssl=1
As I stand in the shower and watch morning slither in through the milky window, I think about death. I think about it over and over again, my mind turning it this way and that with its insistent, prodding fingers—like a stone in a worried mother’s hands. I think about slouched bodies, lungs that fall and do not rise again. I think about eyes that never see again, never blink again, and I squeeze my own shut. Warmth drips over me, but I wish it would drip into me.
Just last month, Mollie Tibbetts—a young woman not much younger than myself—went missing while jogging near her family’s home in central Iowa. Having just moved to central Iowa myself, I now found myself glancing, double-checking, quickening my stride down my once unassuming street whenever I came or went. Death was not unfamiliar to me, but somehow the proximity of the incident has left me both nauseous and nervous.
Thirty-four days later, a body was found in a field near her rural hometown. Investigators pulled back a blanket of withering corn stalks to find her body lifeless, covered with holes, edged with blood that had long since dried and turned cold.
I look at the silver faucet and recognize the warped reflection that is staring back. I lean in and watch as my left eye grows larger, my head stretching with the curves of the metal. Why is it that I feel most like a child in this moment? As I stand here in a curved and naked body that should remind me of my woman-ness? There is something that feels fresh and young and raw in the very saddest way. There is something about seeing my wet lashes stick together, about watching soapy water swirl around my toes into the holes of the drain.
Last month, it was 81 miles. Today, it is 3. Celia Barquín Arozamena—another young woman not much younger than myself—was found dead on a golf course down the road.
I turn the water off without thinking and reach for a dry towel, but as I wrap it around me, death is still dripping from my elbows, still pooling at the tip of my nose before rushing down into my lips. I think of my high school friend who was found dead in her car two winters ago. I was never given more details than this, just that she had been depressed and that they found her in her car. I don’t know if it was pills or fumes or something sharp. I don’t know if she thought to leave the door unlocked or if the person who found her had to shatter one of the windows in order to scramble for a pulse that wasn’t there.
And then, just three months later, another friend, gone. The worst and best of my memories of him now fused: the fiery sunrise we watched that cold morning before school and the flames that poured out of the hole his gun made in his head.
I shift my weight to my toes and scurry from the steamy bathroom to my white-walled bedroom down the hall, as if not allowing my heels to touch the wooden floorboards will somehow grant me swiftness or comfort in my frigid journey. I check to make sure the blinds are closed before unravelling the towel from my body and scrubbing at the droplets freckling my skin, from the top of my thigh to my ankle, and back again. Under the arm, and around, from the ball of my shoulder to the slight of my wrist. I throw the towel, now dampened, on top of my head and rub vigorously, aware that my haste will leave tangles.
I hang the towel from the knob on the closet door and race to let my bare, shivering limbs slip back into the warmth of my bed, sheets and covers still disheveled from my departure not long before. My knees find my chest, and I squeeze them to me—my wet hair pressed between my cheek and the pillowcase it is now slowly soaking.
For some reason, the habit of showering in the morning has never stuck with me as it seems to for most who have moved past adolescence. I don’t know if I ever will view the burning, pulsing streams of water as a part of waking up, of getting started. I think about this as I pull the covers to my chin and readjust the angle of my hips on the mattress. Perhaps this is why I run to the safety of my bed after showering, even if it is just barely mid-morning when I do. I do not bathe myself to face the day, to present my body fresh and pink to the world. I bathe to rid my body of the filth. Like a mother who washes her child before bed, I lather and scrub my flesh so the grime and the dirt and the death can be rinsed down the drain and maybe, just maybe, forgotten.
I didn’t want to know what happened between the snatching of her body and the last flutter of her lids, but there it was, in black and white, strewn carelessly into the world for all to see: golfer found stabbed to death, man charged in the stabbing death, stabbed to death, found stabbed to death on Monday morning.
More holes, more holes. Always more holes.
I squeeze my eyes shut and think about being her friend, her mother, her lover—I am none of these, and yet I can still feel the pull of her death. Even though her body takes up no less space now than it did before, it is already folding in on itself as it lies cold and stiff on the examiner’s table, like a black hole convincing anyone close enough to join in its nothingness.
I feel like a child as I shiver in my bed and ache for warm, dry arms to wrap around me, for soft lips to press firm against my forehead. I am crumpling, crumpling, crumpling as I think about the holes that will not be down the highway in another town, down the street in another neighborhood, but down at the tips of my own trembling fingers—the holes that once I’m dragged into them, I won’t have the strength to crawl out again.
By the time I am warm enough, dry enough, brave enough to get out of bed, morning has come and gone. I pull a green, bulging sweater over my naked body, cotton pants around my waist, and scurry to the kitchen to put a kettle on the stove—my weight dancing on my toes, as if not allowing my heels to touch the cold floor will somehow allow me swiftness or comfort along the way.