Of Cannibals

Notice what you eat, and you will find in it the taste of your own flesh.
montaigne, “of cannibals”

The very second I laid eyes on a placenta, I wanted to put it in my mouth.

I stood by Dr. Santillan as she placed a purple-gloved hand gently over it, just like someone covering another’s mouth, and sank her scalpel into the afterbirth.

Meat, vein, and blood. Four intersecting cuts, a little fibrous cube of dark red pulp you could have easily stuck a fork into and pulled right out, bite sized and dripping.

If I were to write, “The first thought in my head was to eat it,” I’d be lying. There was neither skillet nor skewer in the thought. No “Peas and a nice Chianti.” No, imagining someone else’s muscle and fat sloshing around in my mouth, taste buds alive in the red of another human’s flesh. There was no “thinking the moment through,” because there was barely the pulse of a thought in the impulse to drag my tongue across the red-velvet flesh of the sliced organ. My eyes met the gaping red of a mid-dissection placenta. Snap. Red, wet, lick, rip, swallow.

And it was that, red. Red-red. Deep red. Red, and veined, and fresh. Mere minutes before, it had been happily tucked inside a woman, between uterus and fetus, negotiating nutrients and toxins and life between them. And then, contractions, and then screaming, and then a call to the University of Iowa Maternal Fetal Tissue Bank….

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