“We need you to provide evidence of parental death.”
Gently, with care, I saw through my ribcage. I pluck out my ribs, and lift out my lungs. Nestled there, cringing at the light is my tiny heart. A torch is shone down at her, and she curls up in a ball sobbing. I want to tell her it will be okay, but I don’t trust myself to speak. I know it scares her so much when I open up.
The man in spectacles jots down a few things. I imagine the emotional side effects of my broken heart are diagnosed. My heart cowers and cries. Her hands reach out for anything to cover up with. But there she is small, afraid and exposed. She looks up at me and I hope that my smile is encouraging. “They’ll believe you”, I whisper. She nods tearfully, and hugs closer to my liver. Her body tightens and releases. Drawing her knees and arms in, to release, thinking this will pass. Inevitably it doesn’t and she draws her tiny form in again. Beating faster faster, as though she’s about to break out into a panic attack.
The man clears his throat and I look up.
“We need to see a certificate.” I look down at the table where my lungs and ribs lie. Of course. They need a delicate, professional piece of paper rather than this.
You get a certificate when you do something extraordinary. Not when you die.
“Give me a minute.” I say.
Calmly, nonchalantly, because I’ve done this so many times, I pop my lungs back in place. I’m sure my heart is grateful for that dark cavity where she can try to heal in piece now. I glue my ribs securely into place, but I worry as they don’t sit as tight as they used to. People ask so often to go into my chest, that the doors are almost swinging off of their hinges.
I sow my skin together, almost as though I’m zipping up a suit. I clamber into my clothes. I almost fall, and the inspector sniffs with disapproval.
“I’m sorry that I’m human.” I tell him. His eyes flash. He doesn’t want the story. He wants the facts.
I reach for my bag, and pull out an envelope. It isn’t a fancy thing, like you would expect. No, it’s just brown and worn. I pull out my certificate. What did I win when I got this? The first certificate I ever learned about was people who did swimming lessons. My head teacher would give out certificates to them.
I wish this was a swimming certificate.
I hand the inspector my certificate, an action which I have done so often that I no longer cry. It’s good when there’s no emotion. You can advocate for yourself, you can argue for yourself, and you can sort yourself out.
I’ve been the blubbering mess on the end of the phone, and it is not what these people tolerate.
“Can I keep this?” He asks as he brings my certificate to his nose.
“I err…” I need to say yes, but I want to say no, and that’s the weird thing. Even though this is a copy of the real one, I can’t bear to be apart from something that has my Mum’s name on.
“Well?” My heart tightens up smaller into a little ball. She hides her head in her knees and cries.
My face doesn’t show it, as I nod.
“Very well then. I can see now that, yes, your mum is dead. I am sorry for your loss. You’ll hear from us soon.” He throws the words at me as if I should be grateful he said them.
I am not grateful. I am vulnerable. I deserve to be handled with care.