At 7:21 p.m., I arrive at the hospital for the first overnight shift of my medical career. It’s not a great start — the bus was late, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough this afternoon in preparation for the night ahead.
Seeing this dialog box, which pops up on the hospital’s electronic health record program, is never a surprise. On the list of patients whose charts I’m supposed to review for my summer research project, the deceased ones are highlighted in grey, setting them apart from the otherwise black-and-white list of names and medical record numbers.
My cadaver has pink fingernails. I saw them on the first day of class, after we pulled back the white plastic sheet with the number “22” scrawled on it with permanent marker, and cut away the damp cloth that had been covering her cold skin. Her arms were folded across her chest, and on her fingers was a sparkly, ballet-pink polish, not chipped or peeling despite having been there for the 13 months since she’d died. I don’t know why it’s there. I don’t know if she painted them thinking she was going to survive to enjoy it, or if she was someone who always wanted to look her best, even in death.