To Feel

January 15, 2008
Waiting in the little room with six other individuals felt powerless and overwhelming.. One by one, names were called and I my time would come to testify soon. I was shaking. My body was cold and I felt as if I were about to be examined. Life sure does have a good sense of humor.

I am medical examiner for the county morgue. In other words, I am in charge of examining bodies every day.. I had never thought I’d be in one of my specimens shoes. The room was cold, or at least my body temperature was lower then usual due to my nervousness. I couldn’t figure out why I was experiencing such emotion when I am more desensitized then anyone out there. The next witness was called and I knew that I was next. I could feel the adrenaline rush from the top of my to the tips of my feet. It was a long roller coaster ride.
Half an hour passed then I calmed down. The clicking sound of the door opening caused the adrenaline rush come back ten times stronger. Could it be that my mental state is getting the best of me? I did not know nor could I worry about it. The time had come.

“Doctor Arredondo, please follow me.” said the clerk.

Holding my breath for about two seconds, I hoped to mysteriously faint and not have to testify. What are you thinking Andrea? You’re an expert and they need you in there, you can’t just bail out! Don’t be a coward! Pull yourself together right now!

This little voice was helping me along the way. Even though there were only a couple steps to the witness stand, I felt as if I were running a marathon for breast cancer. It was a long and vigorous journey staring at me. I was stricken.

“State your name out loud and spell it please.” The clerk said.

“Andrea Arredondo, A R R E D O N D O.” I concluded.

“You may be seated.”

There was a sense of clarity coming upon me, like the morning sun filling the empty void. My shakiness went away and I was able to clear my throat the first time without repeating the second.

In my hand, I held a yellow folder with pictures, and reports from the autopsy. Explaining the severity of the wounds, the body’s condition, how long it had been dead for…Wait a minute, did I actually just call a person an it? Um, interesting. I am now diminishing a person by referring to it instead of a human being.

The first question was asked. Looking at the first piece of evidence made me a little nauseous. Me? Nauseous? Never! The idea that picture of a bloody human body was making me ache was unknown and a sudden flash of sentimentality struck my heart. I was feeling the unthinkable, I was feeling sympathy and my heart was beginning to cry. I could no longer look at the depiction of violence as just another statistic. I was staring down at a human being.

No matter how hard I was shaken inside, I kept cool. Fighting was my only option. Next question was referring to how she died and how much damage was done. I was perfectly stoic at the surface, a human statue of pure logic. I answered every question without breaking down. I kept the perfect façade for the jury, the judge, the lawyers and myself. Performance wise, I deserved to win a Grammy. Dismissed by the judge, my time being a witness was over and I was free to go without ever having to talk about that specific person again. I couldn’t believe my marathon was over. Or was it?

Leaving the courtroom and the engrossed faces of the jury and everone else present felt good. I saw the light of day and felt a hint of remorse. I didn’t have to keep a front anymore, yet I was vulnerable Looking at the evidence folder, I sat on a bench outside and remained at ease. There was an unbendable curiosity luring me to open it but I refused. Quickly standing, I began to walk fast, when I bumped into a young gentleman and the folder of iniquity left my fragile grasp. The pictures scattered on the floor and there she was layed out in pieces. My sight was fixed on her and I did not know how to breath, how to speak, or how to act normal again. I lost control all motor functions and fell to the ground where my hands met the cold surface of the photos.

“What did I miss? Who could have done this to you? How did I rip you apart without a single emotion catching me in the act?” I secretly whispered.

Time stood still. Somehow, she became alive and I could smell the blood on the table. The latex gloves covering my hands and I could feel the texture of the blade still in between my fingers. I was there again staring at her about to do my job. Is this possible? Could it be that it was all a dream, and I had never gone to court or that none of the feelings I had were ever real? I must be dreaming, I must be dreaming, I have to be dreaming.

My surroundings were plain and the white walls still the same as I had remembered them. The only one missing was my assistant and there was no photographer either.

“Tara? Can you please come in here, I’m about to start. I need you.” I said out loud.

There was no answer. There was nothing, not even the slightest sound. The only thing I could hear was my heart beating and my lungs inhaling air in and out. Uneasy, I took the blade and pressed it tightly against her skin when tears began to drip from her eyes. In astonishment, I threw the blade across the room and backed into the sink behind me.

“This can’t be happening…She can’t be alive…She’s dead?” I said stuttering in disbelief.

The tears ceased. Once more, I grabbed another blade and was reluctant to cut her again for I did not want to see another bizarre movement happen again. Pull yourself together. Pull yourself together. I looked at her eyes and shut them and proceeded with the cutting.Two inches, now 5 across and no tears. It felt good to just get it over with and start searching for clues. I fully opened her chest cavity to get to her heart when a tight grip got a hold of my neck and I could feel heavy breathing in my ear and a growling sound as if a beast were about to pull a snake attack on its prey. I dared not to look and began to stab its hands. There was no blood and no screaming. I was running out of oxygen and I knew I had little time left. I had to look, I had no choice.

“It’s…you...” followed by uncontrollable screaming on my part.

There she was, scolding at me. The very girl I had cut open..

“Your dead, you’re not suppose to be alive, let go of me!” I cried without realizing what I was saying.

Her face was blue and angry, her face gestures were rough and her eyes were red with fury. She was going to kill in the same ruthless way she was in hope of making up for her unjust death. She squeezed one more time and no matter how many times I stabbed her with the blade she would not let go. It wouldn’t be long before my brain shut down from the lack of oxygen and I lose consciousness.

“What do you want!” with my last breath I declared desperately.

There was no answer but another hard squeeze and everything began to circulate around me and my need for air was wining off. The darkness was taking over daylight and I could no longer see anything, when I heard a faint sound from the outside answering the question I asked her.

“To feel” she whispered in my ear.

The pressure was relieved and I opened my eyes and immediately gasped for air.

“Are you okay? Hello? Can you hear me?” the young man asked.

“Yeah, I think so. Now I’m okay.” I said, “What happen? Did I pass out?”

“Yeah you did. It was right after you bend down to pick up your pictures.” He said

“Well thank you for staying with me and not leaving.” I smiled.

“No, problem, just don’t pass out anymore in the street where there might not be anyone there next time to help break your fall.” He smiled back.

“Good bye.”


I couldn’t quite figure out what had just happened nor did I bother to think about it twice. There was a feeling of inner peace making me aware of what I should do. I realized people are people whether dead or alive.
I do not want to be an ME anymore. I could not handle cutting someone open after what I had experienced. Maybe I’ll take up writing or maybe I’ll even start my own practice as a pediatrician. Whatever it is that I will do next, Medical Examiner, will never be a choice again. Why you may ask? It’s very simple. I want to feel.

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