there will never be a 'new black'
It’s a place to list your old couch, look for sold-out concert tickets, and browse for jobs in your area. I wish I had kept the listing for my job, taken a screenshot or something. The listing asked for someone with a science degree, research experience, and knowledge of spinal surgery. I mentally checked all the boxes and then saw the line that said I would have to be comfortable using cadavers. Eagerly, I sent my resume and cover letter to the encrypted email address.
At my interview, I wore a silk dress with dogs on it and a black blazer. I spoke to the owners of the company in their office, a strange and somewhat-dingy warehouse full of medical equipment. We hit it off when I commented on photographs of golden retrievers magnetized to the metal filing cabinet. Afterwards, I drove to my mom’s house and told her what had happened. She warily listened and then said that what I interviewed for wasn’t “real”, that I shouldn’t give these people my social security number or they were going to steal my identity. She said there was no way that surgeons were practicing procedures on cadaver bodies and parts across the country in hotels, surgery centers, or wherever they could get an empty room. To be honest, I wasn’t sure it was real either. But, I was fresh out of college and looking for a job. This one sounded a hell of a lot better than my last one: doing brain research in a windowless lab. Among other tasks, this meant injecting mice with drugs, cutting their heads off with scissors, carefully removing the fingernail-like bone that is their skull, and after embedding it in a block of gel, slicing the brains into little tiny slices, to be arranged later on glass microscope slides. Sometimes they were pregnant mice and I had to keep them barely alive so that I could remove all their unborn offspring from their bellies, and harvest their little brains too.
Needless to say, I accepted the position. I gave them my social security number, and my identity is still intact, as far I know. It’s been four and one-half years since I saw that original ad, and I can say that cadaver labs are happening basically everywhere, all the time. I type these words from 36,000 feet in the air, as I head across the country on a business trip, all thanks to a posting on Craigslist that said I would be working with dead bodies.
Over My Dead Body is a monthly column that tells the true stories of a young woman working with dead bodies. These stories are written by Mara Louise, exclusively for Way Gother. Reproduction of ANY kind is strictly prohibited and will result in legal action.