Nearsighted


My alarm clock pounds in my head, begging for my attention–it’s time to get up. Snooze once, shame on early morning classes. Snooze twice, shame on me. I roll out of bed and grab my phone for the third time to finally silence it. My fingers lightly tap and glide over the screen, the artificial light burning my eyes so that everything around it appears as darkness. 82 degrees and sunny with a 0% chance of rain. Great! I think to myself.

I set my phone down and stumble into the bathroom to look at myself 2 feet away from a mirror. Grab my toothbrush, hairbrush, and other tools for styling, all within arm’s reach. (My make-up on a good day). Walk a few feet to my closet and ponder over my clothes, my eyes scanning a few feet of space. I then stare a few inches down at my breakfast and manage to sneak in some time a few feet away from the T.V. The news is important, telling me everything I need to know about the outside world.

I’m late for class. My steps are quick as I smoothly maneuver around the sleepless walkers. Sidewalk, phone, people. My eyes know the drill. It’s  a skill I’ve acquired in college.

My class is on the third floor, so I step into an elevator just a few feet wide. There are a couple other students on the elevator. We pretend to play with our phones a few inches from our faces because the few inches of space between us is awkward.

I go to class so that my eyes can follow a new routine. Notebook, projector, notebook, projector. My back hunches to get closer to the paper, writing as rapidly as possible. This particular professor has a routine of his own: PowerPoint, back wall, PowerPoint, back wall. The few feet of space between him and us feels like the Grand Canyon.

Sidewalk, phone, people. Elevator, class. Sometimes the stairs so I can get my exercise.

In the afternoon, I walk back to my apartment. I shade my eyes with my hand initially–I don’t remember it being this sunny and hot. I notice how pretty the campus looks today. The trees sparkle with golden sunlight, each intricately-designed leaf waving softly in the breeze. The vibrant, red brick path that winds around each building is passionately illuminated, and the flower beds are adorned with star-shaped flowers, all of it under a blue sky as smooth as a stone. The openness is electrifying.

I suddenly have the desire to drop off my backpack and play soccer on the quad, go camping, feel all of my muscles worked, allowing my eyes to gaze upon a large expanse of Earth and soak up all the details.

But I have a biology exam and work tomorrow. The deadline for my graduate school application is coming up fast. My surroundings fade away into non-existence as I take my time walking home: sidewalk, phone, people, the occasional tree.

When I get to my apartment, I throw my stuff on the floor, flop onto the couch, and take a break from the day. I text my friends a few inches from my face and watch Netflix a few feet from my face and don’t even bother to look down at my hand as it reaches into a box to bring food to my face.

When I know I can’t wait any longer, I get to work on studying. I hunch at my desk so that there is nothing but the view of my notes, my laptop, my book a few inches from my face. I guiltily take breaks to scroll my newsfeed, liking pictures of people being happy.

Outside my window is total darkness, so I close my blinds, maybe find more food, and get ready for bed. I walk a few feet to my bathroom to look at the mirror a few inches from my face, reach for my toothbrush, allow my eyes to scan a few feet of drawer space full of sweatpants.

I climb into bed aching even though I did not physically labor, exhausted though my brain flickers through e-mails and tasks for tomorrow like a slideshow. And with the few moments of energy I have between now and Stage 4 sleep, I remind myself how it feels to be able to see for miles.

Thanatophobia


Besides the torso, the cadaver was completely covered.  Nothing is stranger than studying a dead person, let alone just its torso.  Ours was an older male that reeked of formaldehyde.

I glanced around the room as the professor explained the goals of today’s dissection.  The class was almost 50/50 males and females.  Some were dawning a brand new lab coat with their name embroidered as if their reputation preceded them–others were sporting an old off-white coat that they probably used throughout undergrad.  (I fell in the latter category.)

No face wore the same expression–I saw arrogance, apprehension, exhaustion–but in all of them, I saw excitement.

I gathered around my assigned cadaver along with my three group partners.  I touched the cold skin just under his clavicle, the sensation between me and this man muted by a flimsy latex glove.   The blonde beside me had already seized the scalpel.

Cats, pigs, frogs…those are all easy things to dissect.  I sliced them and diced them like nobody’s business, gawking at their gallbladders and examining their brains.  I was that kid in my high school anatomy class who liked to pull things apart and see what they were made of.

But cats and pigs and frogs are not people.  They look nothing like people and lead lives unlike people and, most importantly, are not people.  Their hearts were cat hearts and pig hearts and frog hearts.  Their hearts were not this man’s heart.

The professor hadn’t given us any kind of background information on our cadavers other than gender and age.  Sixty-two seemed too young to be anatomized by students.  I asked Dr. Wú about the cause of death–he shrugged his shoulders before turning to help a group in the far corner.

How old would I be before I was doused in phenol and cut open by my descendants?  I shivered and involuntarily took a step back from the table.  Matthew shot a worried look in my direction.

“I’m okay,” I reassured him.

But I’m not, I thought.  My limbs started to tingle as if I were as bloodless as the dead body in front of me.  I was laying in the pitch-black perpetual darkness between the crust and the mantle and the worms were burrowing into every crevice of my body all slimy and leaving behind bits of dirt, the same dirt I was buried in…alive, I’m alive but rotting, just another thing to decompose deader than dirt, I am the dirt, just dirt now and I–

Jumped when a book hit the floor.  My group didn’t seem to notice my reaction as they plunged through the pectoral muscles.

What’s wrong with me? I thought angrily.  “Here, let me help,” I asserted, taking the scalpel from Julianne.  It was time to get to the heart of this issue.

I peeled back layers of muscle, Julianne worked through the ribs and sternum.  After what seemed like forever, I finally saw it, poised between two black lungs…my heart

Stopped.  White as a ghost, I calmly set the scalpel on the table.  Without a word, I rolled my gloves off and marched past my peers toward the set of double doors.