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May 19, 2020 Nonfiction

Your Body Gets Rid of People

JJ Peña

Your Body Gets Rid of People photo

my mother once told me, grief gives your body the shakes. i thought she was
talking about how sorrow bubbled in your throat & vibrated your
spine. i didn’t know she was referring to becoming sick, until my sister
stacey was rushed to the er in the middle of the night, two days after
finding her ex-girlfriend dead. my sister’s breathing staggered, the
doctors told her, her organs were failing from lack of air. when she got
better, small, pink, watermelon-seed hives erupted on her neck. then,
her eyes puffed red. my sister stressed, thinking a dynamite stick went
off in her belly & her health would forever be a paperweight. my
mother calmed her down & told her that the world would smell like
lavender & feel like velvet again. you just have to wait, mija. this is what the
body does.
later she’d tell me, this is how our bodies get rid of people. & i
wondered if my sister’s illnesses were her body’s last hymn for her ex, & if
my body did the same. maybe that’s why my hands started to shed skin
randomly, peeling off the memory of her ex & i salsa dancing days
before her death—all twirls, all hip-shaking, all laughter, no longer
wrapped in my palms.

image: Aaron Burch