Maybe you will read this when you come back from the dead

This one, this time, is dedicated to you. You who may not read this, (not because you won’t see it but) because you are already dead, and dead people don’t read stories about the men who have killed them.

Tell me, please, if you can: Do you know what color lipstick goes best with black eyes? Can you tell me how much sadness you can fit under concealer? No, not the cheap kind. There’s a face to put on, brokenness to conceal before the cracks start to show.


I heard about a man, his name was Jim Jones. Jim told nine hundred and nine people to give him their money, their children, their bodies, their souls. He told women and men to poison their kids and he told women and men to drink it themselves. He told them that he loved them, that he would be to them whatever they needed him to be: A Father, a Lover, a Prophet, a God.

It was the biggest mass suicide in modern day history, and I keep hearing his voice on the tape go: “Hurry, Mother, hurry hurry hurry” and babies screaming in the background.

Why would anyone kill themselves and their babies just because someone told them to hurry?

For nine hundred and nine different reasons, that’s why.

But you — would you do it? Would you drown yourself if he told you he liked the way your hair spread out around your face like a halo as you floated in the water?

He would be to you whatever you need him to be: A Father, a Lover, a Devil, a God.


The opposite of love is love. Well it is, isn’t it? Isn’t it true that no matter which way you turn: opposite, forward, backward, upside down, inside out, when you (don’t) eat, when you (can’t) breathe, when you (lose) sleep — his love is always there, smothering you, burning you, hurting you?

Those holes in your heart: he will try to fill them with so much garbage that you’ll feel permanently dirty, but who do you think has drilled those holes there in the first place?

You carry him in your body the way you would a tumor: his rage in your veins, his coldness in your breasts, his words etched in the lines of your palm, the same palm you use to cook meals you salt (just right) with your tears. Your story is written in blood on his fists and salt on your lips and it’s not even your story, my dear, it never was.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you remember what it feels like to not be so broken? Can you imagine what it feels like to not be afraid? I will not preach to you, or teach to you, anything you don’t already know. You have learned through the pores of your skin and the tips of your fingers what he expects his love to feel like. You have tasted his presence in ever-present wounds nobody but you can see. And you’ve made your decision. I respect it, and others should too. But if you think you can shrink yourself into the nothingness he wants you to be, if you think you can be forgotten and your story ignored — that I cannot and will not respect.

I see you, and your guilt. I see you, and your deadness. I see you, even if right now you cannot see yourself.

“We all are looking for a place to fit in to the world. We’re looking for love. We’re looking for acceptance. And Jim Jones provided that.”

My God, the things we would do to just feel loved.

Maybe, if someone warned them, the people of Jonestown could have been saved.

Maybe, if he took off those glasses, they would have seen the evil in those cold dead eyes.

Maybe if he didn’t promise them paradise, they wouldn’t have been so desperate to go and find it.

Maybe you will read this when you come back from the dead.

About the Author
Shaindy Urman is a freelance writer and full-time mom living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in Tablet, The Forward, Kveller, and Romper.