It has been a couple of years since a woman I did not know sent me, by email, the picture
of her fiancé's corpse. The photo had been provided to her by police for the purpose of
identifying his body. I knew him, but only slightly, and only because of business. My
title in my line of work is suggestive. Which is probably why she wrote: I don't know
what I should do with this.
I won't describe his condition. He had been on the streets, mentally ill, and exposed.
There was no foul play. The photo revealed the entire body. I don't know if that's the
My supervisor thought that the act of sending me the photo was inappropriate. At the time
I was shocked and upset. However, no particular response seemed useful so we put it
behind us without further comment.
As a result of his death, or rather the fact of his death, my business with the woman's
fiancé required a formalized conclusion. Without it we could have gone on for years with
an open, though inactive, contract for service. His parents took receipt of all final
I don't know what this has meant to me, what part of my life is affected. But these days
when I recall the occasion I'm grateful. My parents, like your parents, believed that the
whole of life is construction: collect, make. They taught craft as a defense against the
desire for a narrated life because the agents of drama are insidious. Experience, for
example, is a word for something that never happens, and yet its four syllables build an
arc of rising and falling action. Right there. On your lips.
My moment of initiation, as seen on TV, goes like this: I open the message. The image
falls out. I won't describe my condition.