I found a dead body in the bathroom. It was slumped in the handicapped stall on the floor, legs strewn across into another stall. The door was ajar. I knew this person was dead, and not just sick or hurt. I immediately felt that dooming sense of end when I walked into the bathroom; I just didn’t actually expect to see a dead person. Instead of screaming and flipping out and calling everyone in the world to come see and resolve this situation, I experienced one of the highest moments I’ve had in years. I felt entirely special and chosen that I was the one who got to be in a bathroom in an office building with a newly dead person. So perhaps I can’t articulate what I experienced well enough to convey how serene it was in those moments alone with the dead body—I’m just not good enough at expressing these kinds of feelings.
My heart raced hoping that no one else would come in and ruin this moment. It would just shatter this solitude, so rarely had these days when I can never seem to have anyone’s attention alone, not even my own. I looked over at the bathroom door and there was no lock, so I all I had was just hope that no one comes in. So now it’s just me and the dead body, now the work can begin. Who are you? Why did you die here? Should I be suspicious? What was your life like—were you happy? Who will miss you? People have written books, I’m sure, that ask questions of dead people, so that’s not what I’m attempting to do now, but the questions just began to flood. But not the philosophical ones. I had more logistical questions: Did you take a long time to die? Did you hit your head and die that way rather than, say, having a heart attack? Did you lose your bowels?
Then I began to worry that I wasn’t asking the right questions. Then I worried some more that I just wanted to be alone with this body for a long time. I fantasized about living in this bathroom alone with the dead body and keeping it all to myself, never to let anyone know. Could I lock the bathroom and put a sign up stating that it’s off limits? What about the cleaning staff—they just wouldn’t buy it. I thought for a moment I would move the body to a safe place, but then I realized that my thoughts were a little out of control at that moment and so I began to slow down.
I walked a little closer to see the face, which was hidden to the far side of the toilet. What was most striking about the position of the body on the floor was the chaos of the feet, just sticking up in diverging directions, like they weren’t even attached to the same body. Like the feet were the last to die and they were gripping the floor adamant and stubbornly resisting death. One shoe was loosened, even, as if it was the last stand, literally and figuratively.
I thought about the detective shows when the sleek, supercool detectives take out their pens from their breast pockets and poke the body for no apparent reason. I wouldn’t do that. I was more interested in the feet. And the hands. One hand was still gripping the side of the toilet. Ok, not really gripping it; it just looked plastered to the side of the toilet bowl. The other hand was underneath the body. At first I thought that hand was in a pocket. For a moment I had some great thoughts about this person, and how they were so nonchalant about dying that they slipped their hand in their pocket, coolly, and then died. Like it was no big thing. Whatever. But now I’m not sure the hand is in the pocket so much as the body may have just fallen on top of the arm and died so abruptly that the person didn’t get a chance to lift the hand out and, say, grab a roll of toilet paper, or to put the shoe back on properly.
I am not going to touch the body. Maybe it has a disease that is contagious, even when dead, so I can’t be that grossed out by touching it. So I don’t know what I was thinking when I contemplated moving it somewhere else. It’s just that all these different thoughts are popping into my head about this dead body situation and how overjoyed I am about it. I didn’t really mean overjoyed. It’s sad, of course it’s sad. It’s devastating, really. And I feel empathy for whomever, I do, even though it doesn’t seem like I do. But this situation is happening to me, I was the one who walked into a bathroom with a dead body in it, so the universe has given me this opportunity to experience this and I’ve never seen anything like it.
Kind of like the Grand Canyon, in a way. Like people tell you all about how the Grand Canyon is amazing, and you’ve seen pictures. But until you actually experience the Grand Canyon, you can’t possibly anticipate the feelings you have in response to it. That’s what I’m feeling about this dead body. All those detective shows, and the news, and I feel like I know all about being around dead bodies. But now that I’m with a dead body—alone—I get to own this moment and this experience. It’s all mine.
I wish I had a cup of tea.