Bodies

They crashed in and withdrew quickly like the tide. Everyone thought she was sleeping. She wore a purple scarf and a grimy raincoat, and reminded the teenaged boy with the long hair and the skateboard of a moist raisin.  She sat next to twenty people that day, and only one of them sat close enough to recall the scent of death in the air.

She was a coroner from Midtown, grew up in the East Village with her grandparents, and only left the city long enough to get her MD. When she came back, her grandparents were gone and she could smell their absence all over the penthouse. She sold it and moved to the West Side after her first promotion. But still she could smell death. She could smell everyone’s impending end. When she sat down next to the old woman with the pruned skin and the purple scarf that evening, she could tell it had just happened. It was in the way the body sat, still vibrating lithely against the pull of the car. She knew the proper thing to do would be to alert the conductor, but just for ten minutes she wanted to believe in immortality. She grabbed the woman’s hand and held it against her leg and smiled at the people shuffling around each other, grasping for balance. Go on, she thought, steady yourselves while you can, the ride’s not as long as it seems.

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