Beside them, the body

Fiction by | November 10, 2019

Is all that matters, is the most precious thing in the basement of Memorial Medical Center. Outside the mortuary, by the landing of the stairs, a laboratory technician taps her foot against the white tiles, lays a hand on her cheek. She thinks this gesture implies innocence or ignorance. This will improve her image for the officers in uniform trying to reach the body. But they are not looking at her, because for them, the body is all that matters.

The body is the person stripped of subjectivity. It is futile to describe the body to evoke the reader’s horror at the mangled state it’s in. It is enough to say that, in addition to subjectivity, the body is stripped of many things. The transition from person to body has been violent. As a person, she was Justine Fuego, 19, a chemistry student from the state university. During the Diliman Commune, she helped her fellow batchmates make Molotov cocktails to throw at military helicopters hovering overhead that attempted to disperse their collective. That was six months ago. Five months ago, she joined Kabataang Makabayan. Four months ago, she lived with farmers in Davao del Norte. Two months ago, she was organizing workers in Tondo. Now, she is the body in the mortuary.

There is a group of students and a teacher keeping watch over the body. The teacher is a math instructor at Justine’s university. She teaches Introduction to Calculus. She was supposed to introduce derivatives to her class earlier that morning. But after finishing breakfast, she received a call that Justine’s remains had been found, prompting her to meet up with some other Kabataang Makabayan members to retrieve the body. When they reached it, the operation turned from retrieval to protection as the officers in uniform arrived.

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