Invisible Body

Mrrrrrrrr. The lawnmower was a hot bee droning back and forth across the grass. The unrelenting sunshine had pushed the grass up higher than usual. Watching the rows upon rows be shorn down gave Miranda the same feeling she used to get from watching viral videos of disembodied hands slicing mounds of kinetic sand: Dull satisfaction. The young man — either Dan or Don or Doug, something like that — pushing the mower across her lawn chomped fervently on a large piece of pink chewing gum. He blinked up toward the house but, of course, couldn’t see her staring out at him from the picture window.

It was the smell of the grass she missed the most, but she could remember it if she really tried. It was a damp smell. One of life. Of living. It’s hard to smell without a nose. It had been just long enough that she could laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement. But without a throat, the laugh was silent. She was and she wasn’t.

The remembering of smells and laughter made Miranda curious. It had been days, maybe weeks, since she examined her body. She glided up the stairs into the bathroom. Her body used to be slumped against the bathroom wall like she’d fallen asleep on a gently rocking subway car. Now, her body looked like a black-yellow-orange bloated person-shaped bag. She watched a documentary once about a body farm used by the FBI to help them identify stages of human decay, so she knew the how and why behind the dark fluids that pooled around her. It still didn’t make it easier to accept. She returned back downstairs dismayed. She was glad she couldn’t smell anymore.

——

In that moment across the country, an old high school friend opens his laptop. He checks the news. 104 dead in Kabul. Wild fires in California. A truck in London driven into a group of tourists, 4 dead, 15 severely injured. He shudders internally and pulls his bathrobe instinctively around him, as if it could shield him from the horror in the world. Searching for lighter fare, he opens one of his social media accounts. An inspirational quote has cycled to the top of his feed. It reads: “The secret to being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most of everyday”. He exhales a sign of relief. It’s from Miranda.

——

Miranda floated down to her kitchen, as she’d done a thousand times before. She wasn’t hungry anymore, like she’d been in real life. She wished she could have felt like that while she was still alive. Her mother was always quick to intercept Miranda on the way to the fridge. Her mother had become thin and willowy after Miranda’s father left them for a size 0. She warned Miranda constantly that she’d inherited her father’s slow metabolism. That sugar will make you sick and and probably kill you. She died herself of malnutrition complicated by a smattering of other ailments. Miranda wondered if she was out there, somewhere, floating around.

She approached her laptop. It sat on the kitchen table, open, webcam set up on a tripod beside. It almost begged to be of use like a sentient furnishing in Beauty and the Beast. But it was dead. With no fingers to plug it in or turn it on or even worm over the trackpad, it remained a useless brick. Miranda kicked herself for the thousandth time for pre-scheduling her social media posts all the way to Christmas.

Shhhhttt. Flop. She rushed to the door. A new piece of mail had plopped on top of the small pile collecting in front of it. It was a letter from the Humane Society for the previous owner of the house. A reminder to donate. All Miranda’s bills were digitalized, so she never got any mail. Out the beveled door window, she watched the post woman waddle away with her laden bag. Miranda didn’t know her name. She didn’t even know her face.

——

In the Hague, a frazzled university student gnaws on his iPad stylus. He logs onto his online tutoring site. In his inbox, an old message reads: “Great work this week, Yorick. Looking forward to diving deeper into passive construction next week. Best, Miranda” He clicks on her profile. A photo that artfully combines approachability and professionalism. Under her name, orange letters announce, “Last online: 5 weeks ago”. He has an important exam coming up. He hastily clicks the link “Find a Tutor”.

—-

She drifted into the hallway. She was greeted by the smiling faces of the people she used to consider her best friends. Sandy, married in Florida with three kids. Expecting a fourth, according to a saccharine video uploaded to Facebook for all the world to see. In it, her three children, ages 7, 5 and 2, ask their father to look in the oven. When he discovers the bun inside, they break down into fits of giggles. Tears of joys are shed by the adults. Six months ago, Sandy sent an email apologizing for being so out of touch. She had promised then to come visit soon.

Hatty lived in Argentina with her life partner. Jane was climbing the corporate ladder in New York. Ella, who lived just a few towns away, just simply cut everyone out years ago like they never were. In terms of family, Miranda assumed she had a gaggle of half-siblings as far as her father could toss his seed, but she had never met any of them. Her father. Hank. He had stopped reaching out after Miranda made it very clear at 18 that she never wanted to speak to him again. He had never been one to respect her wishes, but for some reason that one stuck. He would be the last person to wonder if she was dead or alive.

——

In a downtown bar, Theo waits for his Tinder date Thea to come back from the bathroom. It’s been going surprisingly well so far, considering his success with the app. He had just been on the verge of deleting it permanently when she flickered across his screen. She super liked him, which meant something. A super like was special. It was more than a swipe. As he stares at the fake succulent in a tiny pot on the table, he marvels at how similar the names “Theo and Thea” looked, but how different they sounded. Just one letter off. Imagine how it’ll look on their wedding invitations. He’s getting ahead of himself. He reminds himself what happened last time with Miranda: Things were going so well — just like this —- then she just ghosted. When Thea returned from the bathroom, all smiles, Theo lies and says he has to go.

——

Miranda tried to remember Theo’s face. It was hard because they’d only seen each other a handful of times. One of those was also in a darkened movie theatre, so her memory was an eyebrow here, a nostril there, stubble, full lips, kind eyes. Most of all she wished she could explain to him that her sudden exit had nothing to do with him. He didn’t even know her address, so he wouldn’t come looking. She cried silent, nothing tears.

Through the window, she watched the neighbour let her bichon frise out into the backyard. Their last name was Milton, at least that’s what it said on a kitschy sign on their lawn — “The Miltons” — but Miranda didn’t know her first name. She looked weary, as if she’d been gently beaten all morning. She yawned an aggressive yawn she would probably never allow her kids to witness. She looked over to Miranda’s house bored as she waited for the dog to finish its business. Miranda waved to her for the first time ever. She didn’t see. Couldn’t see.

Back upstairs, her flesh was black and papery. How long now had it been now since she last checked? Her calculations were interrupted by Dan or Don or Doug, the bee mower boy, who had started up his machine. She peered over the frosted sticker that covered the lower half of the window. He worked hastily this time, rushing through the job, looking irritated. She glided downstairs to the front door. When he was finished Dan or Don or Doug stomped up to the front door. Instinctively, Miranda backed away, out of sight which was unnecessary. He looked right through her as he hammered the doorbell. BINGBONG. BINGBONGBINGBONG. The bell was like a bomb going off, shattering weeks of silence into a thousand invisible shards. She moved as close to the glass as she could, staring intently into his irritated face. BINGBONG. His finger driving itself into the button.

“Hey, Lady!”

He waited.

“Ms. Kawalsky!”

He waited more.

“This is the last time I’m cutting your grass for free.”

She listened.

“You only paid me in advance til the end of August.”

August.

“It’s almost October.”

October.

“I’m not going to cut it anymore, Ms. Kawalsky. Not until you pay me what you owe!”

Silence. He stepped across the porch to the living room window, peering in with both hands shading his young face. All he saw was a pristine, minimalistic living room staring back. Not Miranda’s aching non-corporeal form.

——

She once saw on HGTV that grass grows two to six inches a week, depending on the weather. She wondered how long it would have to be til someone figured it all out. Someone was bound to notice soon, right?

On loss

When someone you love dies is when being non-religious gets tough. How can you possibly comfort yourself in the face of overwhelming grief without the certainty that the person you cared about your entire life isn’t sitting on a cloud somewhere smiling down? How can you drag yourself out of a trench of sadness when the alluring possibility of seeing the person you cherished someday when your breath escapes you does not exist? What is the sense of this accursed consciousness if it just stops someday as unceremoniously as an unwound watch? How can life just be tragically, finitely over.

When someone you love dies is when you make spiritual concessions. Although you have never been an adherent to any religion, or even given religion, god, the afterlife, heaven or the soul too much thought at all, you find your mind tweaking your previous convictions (or lack thereof). You begin to believe that if the person you valued believed themselves in a wonderful afterlife, then that must be where they have ended up. If you believe in something enough, who is to say that what you stand behind isn’t also true, at least to you? You begin talking to the sky, wishing the clouds good morning and hoping that they are soft under the gentle feet of the one you love.

When someone you love dies is when you realize that you are not immortal. You will age, your time on this planet will fade and one day, you will be gone just like everyone before and everyone after. You are the center of your own universe, but you do not possess that gift of eternal life. You are not the exception, you are the rule. And the rule dictates that no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much you bargain with your own mind, you will never be able to change this fact. The only thing you can do is be the best daughter, wife, mother, sister, son, husband, father, brother, relative or friend you can be. When you show people how much you love them when you’re alive, they will never allow your memory to die.

When someone you love dies is when you discover the depths of your own sorrow. The worst heartache, betrayal, injustice or pain cannot possibly compare to the loss of someone you truly love. When you were dumped by your boyfriend, you thought you knew heartbreak. Now you know that true heartbreak has nothing to do with teenage romance and everything to do with true love. Not romantic love, but true love—the kind that is absolutely irreplaceable and leaves a jagged personalized hole in your heart when it’s gone forever. Nothing and no one could ever fill that shape. That is sorrow. The good news about sorrow, however, is that it’s simply too arduous to maintain forever. It will ease, scar-tissue will fill the hole and your heart will stop leaking eventually.

When someone you love dies is when you can change for the better. You can take those regrets and turn them into change. All those times you wished you had just spoken to her for just a few more minutes, despite 30 years of love and memories, can be transformed into quality time with the ones you love who are still around. All those lost moments when you could have been telling her “I love you so much”, can be turned into “I love you”’s still. “I love you”’s are transferable, bottomless and no one ever tires of receiving them. You can turn your love for someone who is gone into yet more love for those who are still by your side. Don’t let that love dissipate.

When someone you love dies is when you realize how resilient you can be. You feared that you would die yourself of sadness, but look, you’re still here. Someday—maybe not today, tomorrow or even next year—you will be OK again. You will smile genuinely again. You will laugh heartily again. You will love life again. You will feel their love without sorrow. You will honour them without tragedy. Laugh lines will take the place of tears at the corners of your eyes. Your heart will be light again. Which is exactly what they would have wanted.

Bouquet

92. Invisible Bodies

The ghost of an isolated woman who killed herself 5 years ago in her home (and thanks to automated rent and cellphone payments is, for all intents and purposes, considered to be still living) encounters a spectre-support group of similarly forgotten spirits and must work together with her new friends to force her neighbour to enter her apartment to discover her body and give her a proper burial.