I thought it would be a novel, like this:
For three days the phone rings a steady hum that ends in headaches. After three days, the phone quiets, like a dog that has barked for some time and has realized no one is listening.
The funeral director asks, Would you like the view the body?
The relatives flew in as sedately as a flock of tired birds. It was a long trip. He didn’t ask how it was.
The body in the room.
The feeling of someone being gone—a physical feeling. A lost arm. But from deep in the chest.
The body in the room.
Climbing the stairs, he knew instinctively something was wrong, like a small animal sensing a predator somewhere in the woods.
Everything his mother said hit him like a mace but did not bleed.
When was the last time I ate? Sunday. I had toast.
Until Thursday he didn’t believe in God. Now he believed God existed and hated him.
Once he’d told ______, Don’t let me end up like Terry Schiavo. Unplug the fucking machine, okay? Then they laughed.
It’s amazing how many drugs you can find in the house when you stop and look. All those pretty little pills. Most of them coated to go down easy.
The first thing he saw was the pile of empty pill bottles. Scattered near the door like runes.
The funeral director said, Sign here, initial here, sign here.
The first night he threw up in the bed when ______’s smell hit him blindly.
There were his clothes, still neatly hung and colorized in the closet: polos, button downs, suit shirts, chinos, jeans, jackets.
First he cried in this room, then he walked to another room and cried there. This went on for several days.
People started treating him like something fragile. Like an expensive car. Like bone china.
He knew he was already broken.
They thought the world belonged to them.
He knew he was dead but he saw the chest continue to rise and fall, even slightly.
He wanted to say I’m sorry until it was true.
The funeral director recommended a black or blue suit. Something wool. He did not recommend tweed or seersucker for the viewing.
He hated it when people called it a “wake.”
He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be feeling right now.
He started talking back to the television.
The funeral director was making him feel nauseated. His breath smelled like wet paint.
The day after in the mail there was a renewal notice for ______’s subscription to Men’s Health.
He literally could not stop crying.
The police took a box of things back to the station. The box said Evidence. Half the empty pill bottles weren’t even ______’s prescriptions: they were his.
They used to drink too much and have loud sex when they got home. That was years ago.
For five minutes he was going to take his own life. It was revenge. Before he finished he realized there could be no revenge.
He woke up saying his name sometimes. It was like a question: ______?
His mother brought flowers. Something else that was going to die. He was sure she didn’t make this connection.
Had he expected to die first?
All of his black clothes were at the cleaners.
He signed, initialed, signed.
He felt the absence—physically felt it. The feeling of having just vomited.
Parts of his body were sore each day.