MS4, UC Irvine School of Medicine
I found no enjoyment in fishing blindly through the webbings of your fascia from an inability to gracefully navigate the small pockets of space in darkness. To look for perfectly illustrated structures from PowerPoint slides and textbooks, only to end up with unfortunate versions in my blind explorations, or anomaly not by my hands but by birth.
It was in some level of my mind a measure of my own unworthiness to hold a scalpel to your skin. I clung to strings of fascia in the early sessions, clearing away unknown debris with periwinkle gloves, always a size too big or a size too small. Afraid these threads held some significance in life, and most as it turned out, were unspecified sheaths and strands missing from my textbooks.
I think about you in the cold rooms of the anatomy labs, modestly draped with layers of medical-grade white vinyl. The silence in the post-exam weekends, the familiar smell of mice vivarium in proximity, or the green blooms of mold when you were taken away. The electric clamor of power tools while lit radiographs winked from walls. Stainless steel beds, red biohazard plastic, formaldehyde perfume. The mental static that cleared during the third teaching hours, where I knew the lines of your blood vessels and the small rooms in your heart, where I lived in for weeks, and would find my way back years later.
We exposed the strings, papillae, and pulled at them to watch cusps be manipulated via chords and tendons of collagen and elastin, in mimicry of a muscle contraction.
I wondered if your family members acted as pallbearers to empty caskets in your honor, and patiently awaited your return as dust, that would hide the many cuts, nicks, and rearrangements by our hands.
We would never know your name, only numbers, tags, and designated bins; cause of death, too, if we perused the binder with that information. Was there someone who prayed with your protected name?
I lifted the right upper quarter of your face, as if it was stubborn latex mask filling in the contours of your skull. Your eyelashes were sparse, dark, and short. I pulled back the layer of cloudy fog from your eyes. I was told to note the color of the eyes of patients. Yours were brown. Even intact, I would not recognize you in a crowd.
You left the world with hard proof of good living in scars, in the sun, decades breathing in a metropolis, an existence outside books and screens. In the prosthetic joints, in the cancer that ate away your spine. Beyond the archetypes on glossy anatomy hardcovers. Symmetry was an overrated quality.
They will paint a semblance of life upon me. Where on you, they don’t look to photographs for the palette that blood infused. They leave you with inhuman hues in a limited spectrum of greys, sallow olives, and mauves. You will return in the same shade of ash as your colleagues.
They will brush and part my hair to the right, starting at the cowlick that was the bane of its existence. They shaved your hair and bound your head with gauze, for those fragile medical students unprepared to meet you all at once.
I hope you knew. We would never be worthy of you.
About the author:
MS4 student at UC Irvine School of Medicine. I am passionate about primary care, mental health, diversity in medicine, and the humanities. MA in Medicine, Science & Technology Studies. BA Linguistics and BS Biology.
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