Emily Wyatt lives for the dead. The Remington resident will pull up to your house in her nondescript silver van and quietly take your expired loved ones to the next stop on their journey.
"I love my job," says Wyatt while sitting at a café, surrounded by the living and breathing. "I seriously like working with the dead."
Wyatt is a funeral service employee for a firm outside of Baltimore. When someone dies, the funeral home calls a company like Wyatt's to come and collect what's left.
"To my knowledge, I don't actually have an official job title," she says. "My grandmother came up with 'corpse courier,' which I'm fond of. I like to think of Charon [the ferryman for the dead in Greek mythology], although no one has ever actually gotten that reference."
Though it's definitely not in her job description, Wyatt is something like a cab driver for the dead. Most of her day is spent waiting.
"I wait until the phone rings, get the location, and go to pick them up," she says. Then she wraps the body and loads it onto a gurney and takes it to the morgue or funeral home.
Dressed top to bottom in black, with a serious face and a pair of gold vampire-fang rings, Wyatt looks like she could be that ferryman of the river Styx of whom she speaks so highly.
The diminutive 23-year-old has always had a fondness for the departed and the dark side of things, though she hates being labeled a "goth." She hates zombie films but loves vampires, except for the sparkly kind in the Twilight series. She prefers Philadelphia's Mütter Museum-which specializes in medical oddities-to the Met.
"I've always been drawn to the morbid and macabre, and death is endlessly fascinating to me," she says. "I know that a lot of people find it scary, and I think that is what interests me. I'm still figuring out what about it is so captivating, in all honesty. And I'm not a goth, but I don't think I can wear a brightly colored floral dress."
There may have been a moment in her childhood, though, that created her love for the darker side of life.
"When I was a kid, I saw someone drown at a birthday party," she said. "And later, I saw a little girl fall from a second-story window. Since then, I've always been into things that are a little off-kilter and strange."
And death scenes are more morbid than people sometimes think. "People say, 'Oh, it looks like they're sleeping," Wyatt says. "People have this image in their head that when we die, it's peaceful. But that's not the case. Eyes and mouths are open, and sometimes they purge. The human body does some pretty smelly things."
Wyatt suggests that we all keep an eye on our diet and stay in good health if we want to die attractively.
"Everyone should eat healthier," she says with a rare smirk.
Wyatt also has to deal with distressed relatives, lovers, or parents. That last one can be rough.
"I'd say that the worst part of my job is going to a house where a child has died. Or a suicide," Wyatt says. "It's also our job to see that the last moment with a loved one is a good one. We don't show up and coldly take the body away," she says.
"My favorite part is when a family member thanks me for how I have handled the deceased. I think that's the best part," she says. "It's very important to me that I treat everyone with respect and dignity, and it's really lovely when this is acknowledged."
Wyatt often drives through one of her favorite spots in the city, the Greenmount Cemetery, the literal dead end to North Avenue. She admires the passing headstones.
"I love the old parts of these cemeteries," she says, looking out the window as names etched in granite and marble flash by. "All the new ones are so blah and manufactured. It's like they were made on an assembly line. It's all fabricated and there's no craftsmanship in them."
Wyatt is eyeing up colleges in New York, with a plan to specialize in mortuary science. She's only been at her current job for a few months but is sure that she wants to spend her days with the dead. Until she's cremated, that is.
"My friends were fed up with me talking about death all the time," she says. "Then I found this job and it all clicked into place. It's what I want to do for a living, but I'm not sure which direction I want to go in."
Perhaps not surprisingly, her chosen occupation has given her a greater love for life as well.
"I was a bit nervous that being in the funeral industry would start to fuck with my head," she says. "It can be incredibly gloomy and depressing, but I've found that it has actually made me happier and even more positive. Being surrounded by death all day makes you want to really fucking live, as corny as that sounds. The trivial shit in life just doesn't matter at all anymore, and I do everything I can to live harder and better."