Excerpt of Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber
(Page 3 of 6)
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Ed yanks her back, seizes both her arms. Thats it! He starts muscling her
toward the door but she surprises him, shrieking and flinging out her arms,
knocking him off. She lurches at me, clutching my wrists. Im too shocked to
even flinch, but adrenaline thumps into my muscles and lungs. I watch her
pupils contract, and then Alyce is shoving between us, also screaming, Let her
go. Youre hurting her!
Erin wails; she sags down into a squat, clinging to my fingers, her big wedding ring
digging into my knuckles. Im panting, gulping air, pulling out of her grasp.
Alyce shouts, Thats enough, thats enough!
She lets go. Her head is down, hands out; shes saying, Sorry Im sorry, Im sorry.
Someone comes through the entrance and stops, and instinctively Im hoping its Charlie, come
to rescue me. But its Keller Dusekyone of the homicide detectives from next
door. He looks around in the doorway. Everything okay here?
Ed says, Its good, Kell, I got it.
I nod at Keller. Erin is still saying, Im sorry, Im sorry. She seems to be getting fainter and
fainter, as if turning invisible, the words peeling away from her. She twists
the diamond around on her finger. More than anything, I want her to stop saying
Im sorry. Just to stop the spiraling voice, I stammer, Please, I dont
know Im not sure what
She sobs once, a raw sound, and my own throat tightens. Her grief has some sort of penumbra,
like an aura, and Im caught in it, in some hidden and corresponding sadness in
myself. Really, I just I stop. I cant turn her away.
She stares at me, her eyes look bruised. Ill never get to see him grow up, she says in her
terrible, transparent voice. Ill never throw a birthday party for him, never
cut his hair, never meet his girlfriend
As she speaks, her voice begins to
toll inside of me. It changes shape, taking on substance: like an old memoryas
if she was someone I used to know a long time ago, and for me that sort of
ancient recognition is rare and disturbing as waking to the sight of a ghost. I
have no old memories. I say, Jesus. Just let me think about it. My voice is trembling.
My name is Lena;I work at the Lab because they provided training. It said so in the
Herald-Journal advertisement: Crime Lab Tech I. One year correspondence course
through the FBI Fingerprint Classification School, two years of part-time junior college,
and on-the-job-training, filing, and
I work in the Wardell for Forensic Sciences, a
futuristic rectangle, built in 1989the year before I applied for the job. It
houses the health departments toxicology lab, the medical examiners office,
the Red Cross tissue donation center, and the city and country crime labs. Cops
right next door. The tiles on the lab floor are a high-sheen blue that look
like water when the light hits them right; the walls of windows are all tinted
a pale, cosmopolitan teal.
Of course, after that episode with Erin Cogan, were all wrecked for doing work. I feel as
shocky as if Ive just been in an accident. The office is filled with the
formal silence of catastropheeveryone sitting trance-like at their desks.
I try to go back to the set of print-matches Id been working on yesterday, but nothing comes
into focus. For a while, I moon out the window distracted by the way the light
seems to unravel into winged insects and lizards and then back into light and
glass. I open another case file, try to force myself to read police reports,
but eventually I give up, go to the tall cabinet on the endCases Involving
Juveniles, 2002-- and pull the bedeviling Cogan file. There are two other
folders, recently filed in the same drawer, that I glance at, considering. I
push the drawer shut. Two or more deaths, same-age victims, within the same
time frame and geographic area: red flag.
Reprinted from Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber. Copyright (c) 2007 by Diana Abu-Jaber. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.