How to Attend a Funeral

Happy Memorial Day. I got to thinking about death today, which is the whole point of Memorial Day. Then I remembered an old story I wrote a while back. Some of you may be familiar with it. Some of you may not be. I’ve always liked this story, and I thought today was a good day for sharing it. Rest assured, it’s fiction.

You do not sit in the front row. That is for family. You find an inconspicuous place towards the back. And you hope you aren’t noticed. You hope the family doesn’t see you. You hope the new husband doesn’t mind.

And you sit there quietly.

And you remember the last time you saw her. You met for coffee. And you think of how civil it was. How very adult. And how you congratulated yourself that all of the therapy might actually be working. Might actually have turned you into an adult. And you remember looking at this woman, the one you once promised to share a life with. And you wonder how different things might have been had you gotten that therapy earlier. And as you talk, politely, adult-like, over coffee you can’t help but notice the gray in her hair, and the wrinkles in her face. Which you would have never noticed had you been growing old together. Like you promised each other. And you can’t help but wonder how responsible you were for their early onset.

And then you think of the first time you met. And you remember what babies you were. Fresh out of your own parents’ home. And you think of how you wandered around each other for months. Both waiting for the other to get disentangled from now-forgotten other people. And you think of how long you waited for that first kiss. And you hold on to it. And again, you think of the last time you saw her, and you think of the after-coffee kiss on the cheek. So casual. So see-you-next-time. And you try not to think about how that was your last one. And you hold on to that as well.

And you sit there quietly.

And you think of the ratty futon you dragged into your first apartment. And how neither of you wanted to think too hard about where it came from. Just that it was yours together. And you think of the lazy Sunday afternoons you spent on it reading or watching TV, with your legs intertwined. And you try not to think about how it usually led to sex because it seems somehow inappropriate to think of that now. In this place.

You remember giving her a toy engagement ring because you couldn’t afford a real one. She probably wouldn’t have wanted one anyway. And then you wonder if that’s just the story you’ve been telling yourself forever. But you remember she smiled. And she said yes.

You think of the good years you had. And you hold on to those. You think of the bad years. And you hold on to those too. And you wish you were a better person. She deserved a better person. At least a better version of you. And you realize you never told her that.

And you realize you are crying.

And you remember the phone call. From her new husband. Telling you that she is sick. And he is crying on the phone. And you admit to yourself that he is a better person than you were. And you hope she was finally able to find happiness. You think she has. You thank him for calling. And you make vague plans for visiting. But you never do.

And you sit there crying.

And you remember the day you and she were sitting on the kitchen floor. Red from crying. The kitchen floor covered in rice from a dinner that would never get made. And she took off her wedding ring and threw it at you. And how you sat there. With the ring on the floor at your feet. And how the sun set around you. And how in the dark you started singing the only song that was always guaranteed to cheer her up. And how at first she kicked you to make you stop. Still angry. And how you just kept going. And she kicked you again. Maybe not as hard. And again. And again. And suddenly you were intertwined. And she was punching you. And then she wasn’t. And you held each other for what seemed forever. Except it wasn’t.

And how even though you had bought each other a few more months, you both realized, deep down inside, that it was over.

And you get up. Crying. And for the second time in your life you walk out on her.

Notes from the boiler room:

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Ruined by Design, please consider it. It’s been out for almost two months now. Got an email from Don Norman saying that he’d read it. Don Norman read my book?!? Holy shit. He was generous enough to give me a quote: “The more I read, the more I agreed.” But the greatest thing that’s happened so far is people coming up to me at events, holding the book, and saying “I thought I was the only one who felt this way!” Nope. We’re a force. And we’re just getting started.

I’ve started doing a bi-weekly column for Modus, Medium’s new design publication. First story went up last week. Working on the second one now. It’s an advice column, so send me questions!

Saw IDLES a few days ago. Holy shit, what an amazing show. So much energy. So much violent positivity. If you haven’t heard their latest Joy As an Act of Resistance, please have a listen.

Just finished reading Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia. Wonderful memoir about gender nonconformity. Binary gender is tired. Kids are coming up with all sorts of new definitions about who they are, and I am here for it.

We are all trying as best as we can. We are all in love with being whoever we need to be. It’s amazing. Be good to each other. Haters can fuck right off.

To quote IDLES: “If someone talked to you, the way you do to you, I’d put their teeth through. Love yourself.”

Take your meds.

If you’re in Vancouver I’ll see you next week.