Cities as Taxidermy

taxidermy: the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals.

There’s a city a few hours from here stuffed with people who love the old me.

There’s a boy sitting in a stained green booth waiting to buy me another round. There’s a girl in a farmhouse basement waiting for me to return with another blanket. There’s someone calling for me to pick up Table 7’s half chicken dinner.

There’s someone waiting in the parking lot after her shift with the lights down and Metallica up. There’s someone passing the pipe behind the old factory, warning Jaime about recent zombie sightings. There’s someone holding her hand from the other side of the railroad tracks to keep balance. But it hasn’t been me for years, not really.

Imagine a sprawling city filled with all the women I used to be, ghosts of the potential lives I grew bored of.

Cities preserve the dead, quietly perfecting the art of keeping alive what has long passed. The people I thought I’d be, the people I thought I’d love forever, the people who thought they’d love me forever. 

Cities are filled with half-imaginary people. Illusions of grandeur confined to stained green booths, farmhouse basements, and half chicken dinners. They’re caught between being anything we want them to be, and nothing at all.

It’s tempting to stay away, to let the taxidermists do their work. The preparing, the stuffing, the mounting. But you still have to visit the graves of your former selves, even if the small talk breaks their hearts.

Sitting in my childhood room, I wonder: is there a word for the hurt in your mother’s eyes when she realizes the girl who leaves is not the girl who comes back? 

Grief, perhaps. Grief for the daughter she didn’t know she’d lost, didn’t get the chance to mourn. There was no wake, no newspaper clippings, no nosey neighbours—just this skin.

And if you’re still enough for long enough, you’ll swear you saw it move, you’ll swear she never left.