Kim looks at people and imagine what their obituary would read as. When she was a little girl, she had feared death and all things related to it. She was afraid to look at pictures of dead people. She could not look at coffins. When her mom would take her to the cemetery, she would try not to read the names on the tombstones. When she became an adult, she decided to do something about her fear. She started reading obituaries. That’s how she turned into the girl who reaches first to the obituary page of the Sunday paper.
She has written her own obituary, and it’s unlike what you usually read on the newspapers. Kim thinks it’s a pity that your last announcement in this world would just include the name of the funeral house, the date of the interment and the people who have survived you. Instead of a tearful eulogy, she wants to make sure she has a well-written obituary.
Five days a week, she answers email queries about an apparently problematic online payment system. Most of the queries have templates for answers. She oftentimes imagine what the person is like behind the email address. Is he a burly old guy who will have a funny, half-page obituary? Maybe a retired banker who will have a no-nonsense obituary, 3 or 4 lines approximately. Or it could be the old lady everyone is fond of who will have a family member write a heartwarming obituary full of recounting of her character.
On weekends, Kim tries to spend as much time with her boyfriend who works as a college instructor. He hates Kim’s obsession with obituaries because he once read a short story about a girl who reads obituaries in the bathroom when she’s menstruating because she was molested when she was a child. Kim tries to assure him she was not molested but he remains doubtful.
They had been together for almost a year. There’s nothing magical about their relationship. What they have is a comfortable companionship that lacks growth and maturity. Despite the seemingly monotonous context, Kim likes being with him. He has not had any declarations of love and has not talked about marriage plans. Kim sometimes wish he would but most of the time, she’s just content to lay in his arms listening to his deep, evenly spaced breathing.
One Sunday morning while having breakfast, they had a row when he saw Kim reading intently the obituary page.
Will you please not read that while we’re eating? Or in front of me?
Of course, she knows quite well why not but she’s tired of defending herself.
Because it’s all about death. I think you’re getting more and more obsessed with death.
No, I’m not. Besides the headlines are full of death. How’s that different from the obituary?
It’s different and you know that. You don’t even know those dead people. Why do you care about them?
He then got up, leaving his unfinished food and went to their bedroom.
They rarely fight and she hates it when they do. She followed him to the bedroom. He was staring out the window.
I was not molested when I was a kid. I had a normal childhood. I was just really afraid of dead people. Why don’t you believe me?
I believe you. It’s just unsettling when you read those things. Why can’t you just have a hobby like normal people do?
So now you’re saying I’m not normal?
He laughed but it didn’t reach his eyes. Kim is starting to feel there was something he was not telling her. She does not like surprises and that’s why she likes him because he is predictable. He likes toast and eggs for breakfast, pizza on Fridays, classical music when he’s checking test papers and white underpants. There is definitely comfort in routine. But right now, Kim is scared that something is about to change. He could see it in his eyes.
Death is about pain and letting go. No matter how much people say it’s beautiful, you can never convince the bereaved family of that.
I’d like to think of obituaries as happy endings.
No matter how happy they are, they’re endings. I don’t want you fixated on endings. We’re still young. We’re barely starting. There’s a lot of things we haven’t done yet.
Are you breaking up with me?
She didn’t mean to say it out loud but she fears it’s what he was trying to say.
No, silly. I want us to get married.
As relief flooded through Kim, she couldn’t stop her tears.
You really shouldn’t cry. It’s not like someone died.
She hugged him hard.
You’re well aware marrying you means I get to write your obituary, right?
He smiled as he slid the ring on her finger.
I guess so.