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10 September 2008 @ 06:00 pm
Theatrical Muse: Week 247: Question 247  
Name: Dr. Sid Hammerback

Fandom: CSI: New York

Word Count: 981


Write about a mess you've cleaned up.


Irrespective of gender or origin, the man was gentle with each body he received on his table in the morgue. His table was more a loose term, but once Sid Hammerback commanded order at an autopsy slab, it was his area, and he set to work with a preciseness and concentration clearly evident in his blue, bespectacled eyes. Evidence was collected, pictures were taken, injuries were noted down and paperwork started to be filled out. When everything else needed had been done beforehand, clothing might come off, out would come a special hose and he would wash them down, carefully peeling off layers of makeup or blood until plain skin was revealed. Skin which was so often already marred with cuts, bruises, entrance and exit wounds. It was a surface that, as a Doctor, he wasn’t meant to heal, and which, as a Medical Examiner, he was meant to understand.

Washing the body was not atonement or apology for the sins and crimes already committed against it, but it was cleansing. Bodies rid of the blood and the caked on substances, dirt, mud, dust, splinters, debris, were certainly cleaner, but they also seemed to him, more peaceful. Once all the layers of grime and pretence came off, there it was, all the person, all the physical body that had been hiding underneath the cause of death, as murder had a way of obstructing things. No longer was a murdered woman a woman, she was a dead body, a cadaver, a piece of evidence to be poked and prodded and examined. While he always considered the people in his table to be real people, as did the CSIs who worked the crime scene in the first place, once the bodies were clean, they seemed more real to the watchers on, the people who came to identify and take them away to their final resting place. If a mother came to identify and make arrangements for her dead daughter, it was better that the victim was as presentable as possible, if that could be helped.

There were several times where cleaning up the mess that death wrought on a body, helped immensely. Blood washed away, mess washed away and suddenly the answer became clear in cuts and bruises, in injuries he had not yet noted or noticed. Sometimes a heavy layer of some indiscernible covering would melt away, and there would be the clue that solved it all for him, showing in an impression, an indentation, unspoken words that better explained it all compared to how he had been considering it beforehand.


At the end of his working day Sid would go home, he would shed the guise of a knowledgeable Medical Examiner and hang it up inside his chest, slipping out onto the street as a normal man. No matter what mess he cleaned up though, the stench of death, the iron like odor that lay beneath his deodorant or cologne stayed in his nostrils until well after he left the building. While he was more careful not to smell like the harbinger of bad news than he had been in his earlier years, some people with an exceedingly prevalent sense of smell could still detect it, and they looked at him, eyes all swivelling inquiry. Some dogs could smell it, and sometimes they whined at him, nervous and incapable of hiding their wondering about the tale male thing that smelled like, the end.

No matter what good cleaning a body did, the smell of death stuck to him for a while after leaving all that behind. During the course of one day, working as closely with murder and depravation as he did, it seeped into his clothing, and if he wasn’t careful, it invaded his mind also. While he didn’t notice it much anymore, he was sometimes sure that it stuck in his hair like wispy spider webs. The thought kept nudging at him because captive audience lovers would sometimes look at him, they would stop in the middle of their meeting and look at his face, his hair, his expression, staring as if he was somehow, suddenly, tainted.

It had taken Sid some time, however, to realise that what they were looking at, what they were sensing, was not his smell, was not any lingering remainder of his current work and profession. The physicality of it all, the smell, or whatever remained on him that made him seem the Medical Examiner still, well that could be washed away with soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a good hot shower. The memory of it could not be erased, because being an examiner of the dead was who he was, but the smell could be lessened, it could be wiped away with a cloth. No, what his captive audience lovers looked at, what they sometimes spotted, although he was getting better at hiding it, was his own mess, left still partially messy. Death had tainted him in an area outside of work, and because it was not a smell or a stain, because it was an actual mental and personal matter, it could not be scrubbed away, it could not be cleaned up, it could just be dealt with.

Unlike the smell of death, unlike all the mess he could clean up, all the good he could do for someone who could no longer speak, there was no erasing or solving his own distraction, his personal tragedy. Sid Hammerback could clean up all the dead people that came to him over the rest of his career, he could go home each day or night and wash off their collective smells, all the evidence they had left behind on him, but being a widower, being a parent left childless, that would always remain. He could never scrub that off, not ever, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he didn’t want to.
 
 
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