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Kodokushi

October 20th, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

The odor is what will arrest your attention initially, no doubt, but it’s the loneliness of the scenes that truly reeks. Working this job, you learn early on to not risk entering the apartments before donning a gas mask, lest you inevitably collapse into a coughing and vomiting mass in the doorway. Yet all the filtration equipment on the island cannot dissuade the aura of isolation that hovers about the spaces. Someone died here, quite likely weeks or even months ago, and no one cares.

The apartment owner is concerned, of course, but it’s only due to the perception of the remaining tenants. Suicide can dramatically lower the value of a unit overnight, and while these deaths are chiefly the result of neglect, often the deliberate personal variety, landlords are still anxious to shift the narrative and typically call us in a panic. We dutifully arrive and sanitize the space completely, removing everything not affixed to the walls or floors, but it’s impossible not to attract attention. People hover in the hallways and near our vans parked out front. Their whispers are audible.

Beyond the gossip and neighborhood rumors though, no one cares. A person is dead but what matters most is the intrigue that was born, the details of a life that weren’t interesting until they were frozen onto the past. If anything, their curious glances magnify the destitution of the situation and shine a light into the abyss of the alone, which naturally swallows it up immediately. Yet like dark matter, its mass and pull remain, even if unseen. The weight of hopelessness stays anchored even when the rooms are bare.

So there’s nothing to be done but clean up. Loneliness has already claimed its victim and all we can do is try to remember the outcasts in our own lives, reach out to them and vainly attempt to shield them from the same fate. We will not, however, for we are selfish but also fear being pulled into the orbit of lonesomeness ourselves. The effort of being a consoling friend or relative is orders of magnitude greater than that of a whispering neighbor, an onlooker from down the hall. All the cleaning in the world will not scrub that truth away.

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