The Next Time I Die
Oh, yes, before even stepping inside, I knew this would be perfect. With some places, with some people, you can just tell. It’s like they’re sending out a message just to you, speaking right to a sparkling little girl inside your soul. The rusting filigree beneath the eaves? Love it. And those front steps with that green carpeting? Why do people do that? Who cares, right? It’s perfect. Worn just enough to show that you’re serious, a good deal of foot traffic certainly—but not too worn! Not like it’s falling apart! You guys obviously keep things very professional.
Which is why I’m here. Business—let’s hit it. I would prefer that it not be a morbid affair. Soul sucking? Gut wrenching? Eternal regret inducing? Yes and yes and yes. But morbid? We’ll let people have their sad conversations elsewhere—down the street, in the park, in that horrible deli where he sometimes goes, but not in here, not in this fabulous old house, which I can only assume has a piped-in audio system. Which reminds me: music. Yes, I’m working on a mix. And yes, it will be ready by Saturday. Don’t worry, I’ve got more than enough to make sure things cook for at least five hours and a few surprises to keep people on their toes. Because this isn’t just about the deceased—though it most certainly is that—this is also about people’s emotions, people’s psychological cores, and just how responsible we can make them feel. And, just between you and me and your partner, wherever he’s going, I put a little Bee Gee’s on there. “Stayin’ Alive”? Just a little humor, a little wink. Did you know that you’re supposed to hum that song when you give someone CPR? A paramedic told me that once after I fell onto a security fence. Why do they make them so tall? That paramedic was very nice—very discreet—but can you picture it? Trying to save someone’s life while you’re hanging out at Odyssey 2001 with John Travolta in one hand and a Seven and Seven in the other? I’d get distracted by all the lights and probably kill the poor person whose chest I was dancing on. But anyway, go ahead and throw in a little Ave Maria or whatever you’re feeling. Mix it up. I’m fine with contrasts—train-screeching highs, secret basement lows. I like that scene when Travolta asks to walk the girl home and she says no and he flips out and she says in her great little Brooklyn accent, “You shouldna asked. You shoulda just done it.” I love that. And I believe it, too. Sometimes people don’t tell you what they want, which means you can’t wait for them to ask or say no. You have to meet them halfway, like in the closet of their bedroom or a nearly empty parking structure.
Finally, and this is important, I’d like to talk to someone, really talk to someone, about remains. First, let’s ash me either way. I mean, truly, do we want me decomposing? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you’re not getting this. But I can tell by the way you’re looking at me that you understand. He looked at me like that once—the one and only time we ever spoke using words. He said, “I understand. I understand that you think we’re in love, but I don’t know you. Please get out of my bathtub.” Oh, dear. You’ll see on Saturday just how funny and confusing he can be.
Second, and this is the kicker: open casket or an urn and a picture? Do I want him to caress the soft puff of my yellow hair, incandescent in the glow of this very recessed lighting? Do I want his tears to fall on my cheeks, running my mascara all over that satin pillow, making it look as though I’m crying, still, even in the afterlife? Or do I want him down on his knees, weeping before my angelic photograph propped up on that easel, my face perfect in its air-brushed, soft-focused finality? Which reminds me, we should probably wrap this up because I’ve got an appointment in ten minutes at the Sears Portrait Studio. But, yes, remains. Definitely. I mean, I like ash. The color, the way it feels in between your fingers, how you can’t wash it off right away after burning someone’s photograph or favorite t-shirt. And I don’t care who does it. You or your partner or that nice-looking intern who works on Tuesdays. Just drive me somewhere—drive me anywhere—and dump me from the window, dust and ash blowing in the open wind, because I want everyone to breathe me in.