AARON (pt. 2)

June 22, 2009

The day before Aaron flew, his uncle died. His uncle had been dying for a decade, and everyone already thought he was dead. When Aaron received the call, he agreed. When he realized that they meant that he had died today, he was shocked. But not for the same reason they were shocked. They sent their condolences and asked him to write the obituary.

“Oh, I’m not really good at public speaking. Especially in public”

“No. Not the eulogy. The obituary, for the paper.”

“Oh. Do you know if he served in the Army?” Aaron asked thinking of what to put in the middle.

He didn’t.

The average obituary was 5 sentences, and Aaron had the first and last written in his mind. But what did he do in the middle, he thought? Aaron stood in the airport practicing, writing obituaries for every bald man that walked past. From pictures, he knew that his uncle was bald and he thought that a bald man would have a different second sentence than a man with hair. How could it be otherwise? The man coming out of the bathroom: credited with having come up with the idea of placing billboards on benches, Arnie always thought of new places to hide his messages. His friends called him “Mr. Idea.” The man underlining passages in a soft-bound Bible: before being reborn, Peter was the first person to put a new spin on the art of self-portrait in two centuries by adding just the tip of his erect penis into the busts. His art retrospective included chalk outlines of faded empires. The man who insisted on three seats of buffer zone: his one true love in life was his childhood band, The Tender & The Vulnerable. Aaron created a backup to this exercise, in case he ever found himself in the bar, midway and too far into this story about writing obituaries for living traveling bald men, forgetting where it lead. In this instance he would say that he was writing haikus on those who walked past, rather than an obituary. He once wrote a eulogy for a man who was still alive, and no one understood. A haiku, he thought, would be more defensible.

He wondered if anyone in Smook, Texas would notice if his uncle’s obituary were in the form of a haiku. I bet they clap when they count syllables, Aaron thought. He pictured the diner where he was told the cowboys used to hang out clapping as they read the death notices. He wondered if he could justify himself by adding that that’s what his uncle would have wanted.

Aaron decided to write the obituary on the plane over Texas, or the midland, because that’s what his uncle would have wanted. He secretly hoped that a pretty girl would sit beside him on the plane, because he wouldn’t judge a pretty girl as harshly. If the pretty girl sat next to him, he would get drunk on five-dollar gin and tonics, he decided. He would mention the funeral at the second drink, and receive free drinks and lovely shoulder strokes thereafter. The aging stewardesses would smile when he showed them his license, remarking how young he looked. Apparently, at 64 he would still look like he were 12, or by the stewardesses calculations 24. They thought this attractive. He thought this repulsive.

The pretty girl did not sit beside Aaron, so he spent the flight fighting for the middle armrest. Long ago he had come to the conclusion that it belonged to him. He forgot the logic employed, but the entitlement had taken root. He rubbed his arm against that of his fellow traveler and conquered the shared armrest. The man wasn’t bald, but Aaron wrote his obituary nonetheless. He wrote it in the soduku boxes, presuming that the man had served his country courageously, bravely in war and courageous in peace, and left it in the in-flight magazine for the next passenger to make sense of.

Aaron had a plan for when he arrived in Texas. He planned to cover his discomfort with sweat, remark often about the heat and humidity, and take frequent showers at the motel. This cycle, he thought, would always ensure small talk and an exit strategy. He also played with the possibility of taking advantage of the afternoon nap during times of grief. Though he had little to do in Texas, they would understand the notion of sorrow engendering sleep. It was natural.

At the airport, Aaron’s uncle’s common-law wife waited all day.

(crossposted at http://urbesque.blogspot.com/)

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