SARDINES

I saw the body in the morning. It already had been sealed into a bag, the paramedics crouched over it to lift it onto a stretcher. A cop stood on the side, arms folded. Collective living breath hung like a fog.

The stretcher is loaded into the back of an unlit ambulance. The bag thumps into place. A heavy object.

I wondered if I may have known them. A homeless person that I passed by a thousand times. Or maybe someone from the co-op. A familiar face in the men’s room.

Who ever it was, it is no one anymore. 

In the office, it’s Maria’s birthday. Phil wants us all to go to tapas. John says, “You see that body, man?” Christine hushes him. 

In my morning call with the client, I find myself wondering if he’s ever seen a dead body before. I do not ask him. I pound off a “thank you” email into my stiff keyboard.

The tapas bar has copper ceiling tiles. John mentions it three times. Maria wants a charcuterie board. I order sardines.

The sardines are brought out ceremoniously: still in the tin, seated at the center of a red square plate. A slice of toasted bread sits at each side. 

Phil asks me if I like fish. I say yes. Why would I have ordered it if I did not like it.

Four milky eyes stare up at the copper ceiling, past it. Up into the warm light, up above the restaurant. 

I take one out with a fork and position it on the toast. 

How awful to die and become a heavy object—taut, unyielding. Losing the ease of life so quickly.

When I die, I would like to be a sardine.

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