Dead Bodies (for Ellie Campbell)

Yesterday Danny called me all in a panic to say that he had gone to the house of one of his employees, Trish, to check on her because she hadn't shown up to work in a few days, answered her phone (landline or cell), or returned any of his messages. After initially being pissed, he got kind of worried. The landlord let him in. Trish was dead. She was about 55 or so. No known cause yet.

Danny was totally rattled having never, ever, ever seen a dead body in person; even at a funeral. I wasn't phased because I've seen plenty of dead people. It's highly experiential for me. Maybe what separates me from Danny isn't that I've seen "plenty" of dead people, because I don't know if I've seen more or less than anyone else, but that if I don't hear from someone for more than about 70 minutes, I just assume they are dead and start planning accordingly, psychologically anyway.

Maybe what separates me from Danny is that I have actually found dead people myself. Four of 'em, all overdoses, except for one.

Here goes:

Dead Body #1: The first was Katrina in '89 who was addicted to heroin and all-pharms and crystal meth (and probably crack too) and had a temper that could only be described as goddamn fucking explosive! I used to let her visit me at the office (never at home) and I always had to sit in the chair by the door with the door cracked a little, just in case she was having a day. Three times over the course of the year I knew her I had to call 911 to have the police remove her from the office for screaming and making threats and refusing to leave and throwing shit and just freaking the fuck out from hearing simple truths about her life. No one ever pressed charges but once they arrested her for possession. It's funny when people get busted for possession; how they are all incredulous about how magical drugs got in their pockets and they do this whole "Whaaaat? I don't do planted them on me!" routine. This act is the exact reason I watch COPS on TeeVee.

Anyway, Katrina was obviously a high risk for accidental overdose and that's exactly what happened to her. I got a call from a colleague who got a call from her landlord about an odor. I went out, he let me in, and she was on the bed, dead, eyes open and very red, pills visible in her vomit and that whole dramatic scene. I guest it was shocking for me at the time. The smell of death: much shit, new mulch, and beef stew.

Kat was only 22 and she actually still believed she was going to beat it and live a life happily ever after. She really believed in a future. She used to write these long kind of 8th-grade-rhyming poem-raps about life and would show them to me with pride:

I gotta hang on/cuz I believe in me/
and I'm gonna dream on/cuz there's so much for me to be

I really liked her though, so I was glad I was the one who found her because her whole family was fucking all kinds of white trash miserable and her boyfriend was just pure evil. And all of her "friends" were the predatory type. I wish her whole gang could've been indicted for murder, because that's basically what happened.

Dead Body #2: I only knew Jimmy for a few weeks in the summer of 1995. Heroin, of course. A mutual friend called to say that Jimmy was missing. We went to his place and convinced the manager to let us in. And there he was dead on his side on the kitchen floor, with bunches of plastic grocery bags in each hand, and a used condom on the floor...of the kitchen. No odor, thank G-d. All the lights were on. Camera equipment and accessories all over the place, some not even opened yet.

Jimmy's place was odd in that there was a digital clock radio in every single room, in the hallway, in the bathroom too, and no furniture except an office chair and a futon mattress on the floor, with a sleeping bag, and a bunched-up flannel shirt for a pillow. Mostly camera equipment and a laptop.

Why the clocks? We never bothered to ask. I still can't figure and no one seems to have known why the clocks.

Dead Body #3: The consummate junky's junky, Carla would ingest anything, smoke anything, inject anything, snort anything, plug anything. Everything, actually. She was 45 and had been living like that since she was 12. She looked 60. It was a miracle she was still alive. Her lifestyle had just caught up to her. I went to pick her up to take her to her first medical care in 10 years; a physical that she had finally agreed to take only if the "doctor didn't lecture."

It was 2001 and Carla lived in the worst rooming house in Lynn, which is saying a lot. Lynn, interestingly is only one of two non-deep south places I've been called "nigger" to my face, which is saying a lot (Cincinnati is the other). This place was the saddest and most violent pit of despair and human depravity I've ever seen. It may be the place that has frightened me the most. Her door was open and the TeeVee was on and she was dead next to her bed. Not long dead either. As I was calling 911 some dude walked in behind me with his pants off and a huge erection in his hand. Comically, he about faced and marched out when he saw me. And, that was Carla's life: door open, sex for drugs, 24/7, use or be used. I stayed there until the cops and EMT came even though I was terrified to be there. That place was that bad. It was stupid and paternal of me to stay, I know. But its what I did because I'm sure further violations would have occurred.

Dead Body #4
: In 2006 I was sent to check on an AWOL co-worker because he hadn't shown up to work in for several days, answered his phone, or returned messages. Awwww shit! We got in touch of his brother through a number in his HR file and he met me at Dave's place with the police there for a "health n' safety" visit (and to legally break in). Dave was dead on his shitty couch, the TeeVee was on and it stunk like fuck. The body had actually ruptured, what the cops called, "a popper." The police put these tiny tampons in their nostrils and seemed wholly and surprisingly unfazed. Dave's brother vomited.

Dave died at 41. Carol (our boss) was totally rattled. I wasn't because Dave was a total pain in my professional ass. Dave had started a diet and rapidly dropped like 70-80 pounds in like two months. People asked him, "are you okay, aren't you losing weigh too quickly?" and he was defensive as hell with his, "can't a guy lose weight anymore with out people criticizing him?" Incredulous, he was. He didn't know he had somehow given himself diabetes and basically killed himself.

I had to pretend to give a shit around the office and at the memorial when deep inside I was so relieved. I acted all sad like I did when that time I got laid off with an incredible severance package and before I signed the termination agreement.

Anyway, have a good weekend. Don't die. Or, at least, don't let me find your ass. If a plane doesn't crash into your house, you win today.