I’ll always remember my first pick up. It’s one of those things. Like your first love, your first car, or your first pet, but they are good memories. My first job is stored away in my bad memories box, but often comes to mind to send a shudder down my spine. I have seen worse since, but that was my first and I was a virgin to death then.
For the first three days I didn´t see a corpse. I was washing cars, cleaning coffins, learning procedures, all the basic stuff. I was starting to think this job would be easy, then one night they called me on the mobile phone to go to a scene. We went to an apartment building in a less than desirable part of town. The apartment was on the seventh floor. When we reached the door to the apartment I was told by my partner to wait outside. Waiting in the hallway I could smell the stench of death which was unfamiliar to me. It was overpowering all my senses and I had to fight the urge to throw up. My mind was filled with images of what I would see inside. My breathing got heavier and I started to sweat, my heart racing. I was told it was time to go in. I thought to myself, here we go. I walked in and the scene before me was nothing like what I expect to see.
The small one room apartment was decorated in dark greens and browns with stained carpets and empty food cartons everywhere. The smell of urine and stale blood filled the air along with rotting food and of course rotting flesh. In the centre of the room there was a large bed. The sheets were once white but were now black with the juices of a decaying body. In the centre of the bed was a huge woman. She was laying on her side naked on the bed. The skin was white, but all the veins were black. Every vein in her body was black and visible through the white skin which looked like porcelain. The skin was bubbling up in large boils of gas. The boils were moving as the gasses expanded. She had been dead for two weeks and it was August. In the heat she had blown up like a balloon. She was covered in shit all over her legs but it had gone black. The doctor asked “what is that black thing there?” We said “its shit” He said “no, no there” and pointed to her legs. We said “yes its shit!”
Once it was time to move her we had to grab her without getting covered in shit, on our shoes or any of the jellied blood and peeling skin on our suits. We also had to be carefull not to pull too hard or the skin would give way and slide off the muscle. We call that onion skin in the industry. We were trying to get her in the body bag but she was amazingly heavy and with very little to grip onto it took a lot of work. Some boils had burst and the liquid began to drip from the open holes. We finally got her into the bag and just managed to close the zip. My partner helped me to carry her out of the apartment which was a tight squeeze and getting through the door took a bit of persuasion.
Once we got to the lift we could see there was not enough room for the three of us. I went down in the lift with the body bag propped up against the wall. The body liquid was dripping out of the body bag into the lift. It was all over my shoes. I was looking forward to getting cleaned up and getting the smell off my clothes. Then the lift stopped and the doors opened. There stood a family ready to enter the lift with all their beach stuff. As they saw me and the body bag the smell hit them. They looked in shock and stepped away wretching. I smiled and hit the button repeatedly to close the door. I think they won’t forget that image for a while. Just like I will never forget that pick up.