Jaroslav A. Polák CC
Note from a Cadaver
Giving you my kidney was the most selfish thing I've ever done. I don’t regret it, but there’s something you should know. That kidney bean was to be the sprouting of my undoing. My gift of life was to be my final act of it. Within the kindey, I concealed a suicide note nobody but me could read.
I walked into the doctor's office with red flags melted into my skin next to the electrodes to check my heart rate, and nobody noticed. If I could pee into a jug for 24 hours, I was in. It didn't matter that the space around my head was cloudy, so long as my pee wasn't.
The psychologists, the social workers, the dietitians, the doctors, the anesthesiologists — none of them knew. I felt like a god in that way, but was more akin to a suicide bomber, hiding what was underneath. Brimming with suicidal ideation, all I had to do was point out a goddamn lion on a clipboard, and check the "no" boxes when they asked if I was depressed, anxious or thought about suicide to get the greenlight.
Lying and lying like the Good Samaritan I was.
Family, friends, the doctors, they all asked me why I was doing it. I shrugged, with my usual nonchalant, whimsical attitude that it seemed like a good thing to do on a Thursday afternoon. I filled out a form online in between looking at my pro wrestling browser tabs and the incognito porn window.
As a philosophy major, I sometimes wish I had a more profound epiphany for why I decided to donate, and a better story to tell. But once I realized how doable it was, it was a “doing” thing more than a Great and Noble Thing. My noble thing was the Noble Lie, told over and over again to all those who would listen, “I’m fine, take my fucking kidney.”
I was anything but fine. Fine was too heavy a word to lift most mornings, so I sank lower into my bed. You know it has a spot carved out where my hip goes?
Don't get me wrong, anonymous. I wanted to help you. I wanted to give you new life. It never mattered who you were. Old, young, black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, someone with a checkered past, someone with other comoribidities. You were someone. That's all that mattered. It wasn't costing me anything. Some pee, some pricks and prods, and prolonged stays in the CT scanner, x-raying my kidneys to make sure they were up to the task.
When you got the news I was your lifesaver, I hope it made you smile. I hope your significant other, family members and friends matched your tears of joy and salvation. I hope. But you didn't know I saw myself as a cadaver donation.
Nobody notices rot when it's on the inside. My organs were for the taking. I didn't need them where I was going.
How selfish I was to make you the quasi-hemlock of my suicide note, an unwitting accomplice in a sad man's swan song. At least when I died, people would say he did a Good Thing. That in my desperation and low-energy depressive state, I was good enough to be carved into.
That was nine months ago.
People keep asking me if I want to know who you are or why you haven't thanked me. But I want to write to you, to tell you that I'm still alive. To tell you that I'm still making it, hour by hour and day by day.
That, for now, the body bag hangs in my closet like a slouched shadow.
You couldn't know this, either, but I've come to measure the days by Nautica Blue sprays. That's the cologne I bought in January 2018, three months before I decided to donate to you, and when I became a cadaver on borrowed time.
The bottle's almost empty.
Brett Milam is a journalist and writer in Cincinnati, Ohio. He's appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Spelk, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. He's on Twitter at @brett_milam.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.