I’m going to tell you a story, which led to a short screenplay. One of those “based upon a true story,” screenplays.
Mine. This story, happened to me.
As I’ve been gaining more and more happiness in my life, I remember things I’ve pushed down. Earlier this year, as I was coming out of my nearly ten year funk/depression, I started to remember something that happened to me.
So, I decided to write a short film about it. It’s called, A Slight Hesitation. As of this moment, before you continue any further, only 3 people know about this story. I haven’t really talked about it in forever. I was very reluctant to share it with anyone, but seeing as how I share everything with my wife, she loved it. Said it was the best thing I’d written. It is a 9 page short, about a very painful situation. It currently is a Quarterfinalist in Screencrafts Short Screenplay Contest.
I’m going to tell you the story, now.
When my brother died, it was here in Arizona. Dunlap and 19th ave. The spot where he was murdered isn’t too far from where I currently live. About, 6 miles away. I was here in Arizona, my parents were both in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I’m from. Alaska is home. My older brother, at the time, lived here, too. If I’m being 100% honest, he couldn’t be relied on for anything. Still can’t. He and I don’t talk, and we haven’t for six years, and that won’t be changing.
If you don’t know by now, I’m petty.
So, after he died, I was tasked with Identification. Like in the movies, I had to go down and identify his body. I knew that Saturday afternoon that it had to happen, but the Medical Examiners Office was closed on Sunday, so I went down Monday.
My job, was really cool about this. I got to work from home for two months straight. I was already working from home two-three days per week, but as a Bank Auditor at that time, I needed to be in the office. Traveling to different parts of the country. But, like I said, they were cool about it.
So, that Monday, I don’t know why i did this, but I got up, put on a suit and a tie and drove to the medical examiners office. I think in my mind, I wanted to feel nice, even though I was a mess. I walked through the door at precisely 11a.m.
The time, is important. 11a.m.
I was in a daze. I zoned out. I don’t remember entering the reception area, or the Receptionist, other than she was a petite blonde lady, the nerdy kind. I was nervous. The kind of nervous that makes you sweat. Like, bad.
I sat in the empty lobby for 15 minutes. I was the only one there. Learned later, that I was the only one there the entire day. Fate I suppose. You’ll find out why.
While I sat there, my left arm had this uncontrollable shake. I had to keep steadying it with my right arm to keep it from shaking. I got lost in thought. All these terrible scenarios flowing through my head.
What if it’s not him.
What if it is him.
What am I going to do.
Am I going to cry?
While that was going on, not once did I hear the receptionist call me over. She eventually came over, and tapped me on the shoulder. That broke my trance. She took me down a long hallway, and into a cold, semi-lit room. Just the sound of her high heels hitting the floor. As we entered the final room, she gave me quick instructions.
Go in. Lift the sheet. Yes or no.
And boom, she was gone. I stood in the doorway, lingering for a second, before making my way to the table.
There in front of me, was a body, covered by a sheet.
It was 11:17 at this time. The Medical Examiner, Alice, had this clipboard that obscured her face for the first few minutes, but out of curiosity, she kept peeking up, hoping that I’d do it, and leave.
But, I didn’t. I couldn’t.
That’s when I froze. She explained what to do, again. Pull the sheet back, give confirmation, then I can leave.
The process should’ve taken 3 minutes, tops.
I wasn’t ready. I turned and looked up at the clock, and before I knew it, 30 minutes had elapsed.
Alice offered to do this by photograph. I thought that would be best. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pull the sheet back. I couldn’t stand to know if the nightmare was real.
For sure, the photographs should’ve been easier, right?
It took her about 30 minutes to get the pictures, so by then, it was 12:33. I sat there, staring down at the three polaroids that were faced down on the table for at least 25 minutes.
Nope. Couldn’t bring myself to turn them over. Couldn’t stand to know. I apologized for wasting her time, and kind of slunk my body against the wall.
Then, my stomach rumbled.
One of those loud rumbles, that other people notice. She asked if it was nerves or hunger. I said, possibly both, as uncomfortable silence filled the air. Then:
Alice: When is the last time you ate?
That was a loaded question. It was Monday by then. I had heard the news he had been shot Friday after dinner, found out he died sometime that night, but we didn’t get confirmation until Saturday.
Then, something unexpected happened.
Alice, and I, went to lunch.
It was this small cafe that served sandwiches and stuff. It was a short walk from the Medical Examiners office, one of those places that you could tell Alice frequented. People seemed to know her. Not necessarily what she did for a living, but, they knew her.
She ordered, I ordered, and I quickly paid for both meals before she could even object. We took a corner booth, and kind of ate in silence for a while. Then, I asked her some questions about her job, and she was kind. Respectful.
She did not rush me. She did not tell me I needed to go back and lift the sheet.
We sat there for an hour having lunch. Then we talked for quite some time after that. Taking my mind far from where it should be. Brief moments of laughter and happiness filled a rather, for lack of a better word, shitty weekend. It was a moment in time that kind of makes you realize how compassionate people can be.
She didn’t have to do that. It was her first time ever going to lunch with someone that was there to identify a body. I know because I asked her. Finally, towards the end of the hour and a half lunch, when I knew I had to go, when I had to go in there and lift that sheet regardless because none of my other family members were there to do it. She told me about the band aid theory.
Which for my screenplay, I modified.
Her words were,
It’s like a cut. When you have a cut that’s deep enough, it requires a bandage
Now, you can do on of two things.
You can wait as long as possible and let the band aid fall off
You can rip it off when you think you’re ready. It’s going to hurt either way.
(Through feedback I took it out because it’s an overused analogy, and modified it to a swimmers theory)
However, through it all, Alice was correct.
It was 3:00pm by then.
So we walked back, went down the long hallway, and into the cold, semi-lit room.
I stood there. Still unsure if I wanted to pull the sheet back.
I finally mustered the courage, pulled the sheet back.
As you know, if you’ve been following me or know me, it was indeed my brother.
Respectfully, I pulled the sheet back. I patted it down, I started to feel lightheaded. Earlier during our conversation at lunch, I asked how people tend to react. She told me that it ranges from hysterical quiet, to a catatonic like state of shock, to fainting. Alice told me that the fainting freaks her out the most.
person idiot I am sometimes, I boldly proclaimed that I had never fainted.
Guys, in movies and books, that’s called foreshadowing.
I told her I was fine, it was my brother, and I fainted.
Fucking. Fainted. Like fall back, hit my head, wake up a bit of time later. (4 minutes to be exact). I guess I was just overwhelmed. I was hurt. Sad. Messed up.
4 hours, 30 minutes later, I left. I never saw Alice again, never forgot about her, or the kindness she showed.
That’s a piece of me, that now everyone knows about.
I had Finn do the drawing, and he pulled 4 names, and slobbered on one of them. So four winners. Another giveaway for a similar shelf will take place in October!
Based on name displayed:
Please send me your address and I’ll ship the shelves out next week!