Rigor mortis

I found a dead girl on the street.

It was Second Avenue, a busy area, so it was odd that I was the first to discover the body. I should’ve immediately called for help but, for a moment, I was mesmerized by her wiry frame, balancing on the knees and head like a post-modern sculpture.

I walked to the other side, where I could see her face pressed against the cold cement. That’s when I knew she was a girl. Actually, she was my age, probably older, so maybe I shouldn’t call her a girl. Maybe I should call her a woman. But when someone dies that young, ‘girl’ is appropriate, right?

Anyway, the lips were blue, the skin pale. I’ve never been one to freak out. So calmly — maybe too calmly — I flagged down a police officer, who was on the other side of the street.

“She’s dead,” I said.

The officer radioed for help using police jargon, which I used to understand when I was a reporter and I listened to cop radios. It was a monotonous job, until you heard the code for murder or car accident or something else horrible. Then you perked up.

Sorry, back to the dead girl: I figured rigor mortis had set in, because there was no way a dead girl could balance like that — it was beautiful, in that messed up, artsy kind of way. Or maybe it wasn’t beautiful at all. Yeah, actually, it wasn’t.

By now, the local business owners were in front of their stores looking on. Pedestrians had gathered around with a sad looks on their faces. But, just like at most public tragedies, it was more a spectacle than a vigil — a story to tell later, not a moment to mourn now. There were maybe 30 people surrounding her, some with tears in their eyes, others with a phone in hand, but everyone trying to see if it was someone they knew, someone they cared about. The police officer continued to stand over the corpse, which seemed almost disrespectful, but he was probably just protecting the evidence — just in case, you know.

Then her leg twitched.

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