The Mortuary Attendant 3
“Tonight, we drink and toast to life. Sobriety comes in the morning, but by then, we would have successfully forgotten all the tales of yesterday- or not”-G.I
Sometimes I was on night duty, and sometimes I was on day duty. After I touched the first dead body, I felt violated. I felt like a stranger. I felt different. Dike brought a bottle of beer to my side, placed his hand on my shoulder, and sat in silence with me.
But with each day came a different experience. One of my duties was to transport dead bodies from the hospitals to the morgue. With each day that passed, I became curious about the lives I transported lived and the life they left behind.
There was one who died in a fire incident that her little son mistakenly caused. Her son stared on as I carried her body. I could see in his eyes grief, hurt, and guilt. I shook my head as I wondered if he wasn’t too young to carry that kind of guilt on his shoulder. I asked myself how long he would live with it and if he would ever find peace with the fact that accidents happen all the time.
There was another who died in a car accident. He was hurrying to see his wife, who just gave birth and his newborn baby. His wife charged towards us as we carried his body, hair scattered, clothes rumpled. She cried at the top of her voice, screaming, “our baby is here! Nnamdi, our baby is here!”. I later learned that they have been married for ten years without a child. That was their miracle baby.
Gladys, how could I forget Gladys. Gladys was shot by a stray bullet a night before her wedding. Emily was raped to death. Florence died of a heart attack at 18, Mide committed suicide over bad results, Jide, Tunji, Kafayat, Alima, all these people.
There is something seeing people die does to you. It changes the way you see life. It shakes your belief, makes you question if there is a God, and at the same time makes you want to cling to the hope of a better life, eternity if you may.
I no longer cared about making enough money to prove myself to Emily. I no longer cared about her mother’s opinion. I ate and drank with Dike and his friends. I saved too but, I acted like each day was my last.
I was kinder, asked more questions, and put a little of myself into everything I did. The boys and I would joke and laugh as we did our work daily, distracting each other from the obvious.
Some days were easier than others — for instance, days when people came back to life. Yes, I witnessed days like this. Some called it a miracle. Some said the person did not really die. The boys debated about it till dusk. For me, all I had were questions. Questions for the one who resurrected and questions for the one who restored him. Questions about grief and something around wonder.
I don’t know, I don’t know. I won’t say I love my work. I mean, it’s hard work, and it drains me but, I won’t say I hate my job either. It is my source of income and it has changed me. I no longer want to gather and gather. I no longer envy those that gather and gather too. I just want to live well and leave people behind with gentle memories that would fill the void my demise causes.
And as for love? Each time someone comes close, I tell her I’m not someone she wants to be with forever. Amara, the only female friend I’ve made in this wild city, thinks I am crazy and that I am too hard on myself. Dike thinks I would end up with Amara, but I think no one knows these things, really. Life is never always black and white. This is one thing life taught me, even as it humbled and changed me.
Read Mortuary Attendant 1 here: https://ugothekipepeo.medium.com/the-mortuary-attendant-21477d0c6394
Read Mortuary Attendant 2 here: https://ugothekipepeo.medium.com/the-mortuary-attendant-2-baba5f401608