Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Case 4: Jane

[Part 4 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]


I WRITE OBITUARIES for a living. In a world where people die on a daily basis, orders from clients to publicize their grief come as swiftly as they bury their dead and collect their inheritance. They finance their declaration of mourning in print media with nary a sign of hesitation as though the earth suddenly closes its ears to these people left in unspeakable desolation each time someone’s eyes close for eternity. Maybe they are consumed by the idea that their proclamation of despair can only be given justice by newspapers where the words have voices loud enough for the living to hear. Or maybe they are inspired by the thought that sympathy is too infectious the readers will eventually march their way to whichever funeral their footsteps will lead them to while dragging a heart so heavy they can almost step on it as they walk. Perhaps I will never be deprived of condolences to pen. Death has more than a billion names patiently waiting in line before they are finally engraved on marble. I work hard on weekdays and even harder on weekends so that someday I’ll have the money to pay for my own entry in the obituaries. I’ll have my name in the papers by the time I’m ready to enjoy my well-deserved eternal holiday, ensconced in a place where the muteness is unending and the earth is warmer than usual.


Life is sad, especially when you live alone, sleep alone, and wake-up in the morning so that you can continue your routine of working for the dead. I stopped studying right after my second year in college and decided to get a job. Fortunately, I found one advertised in the papers, tried my luck, and now I’ve been writing the names of the dead for the last two years.

During my job interview, there was only one question:

“Jane Mojica, eighteen from Laguna. You studied Food Technology for two years. So what makes you think I’ll hire a woman to write the obituaries when you’re better-off writing about fancy dinner, if not cooking one, perhaps a sandwich for your man?”

I swear I could have stabbed him with my pencil. He certainly lives up to his name — Dick. When I looked at him, half in disbelief and half out of restraining my hands from grabbing my pencil, I thought I saw a nose somewhere on his face. I was not quite sure he had one. I thought how in the world is this asshole able to breathe? At that moment, I wanted to punch two holes above his lips with my pencil so that he can finally have a nose to show the world. But I let the thought pass.

“Well, my parents died a year after my younger brother did. My family is from Baguio, but we transferred to Laguna after my grandparents died there. We lived at my uncle’s house, father’s only brother. And then my uncle died just two months after we moved in. Another two years and malaria took my brother, my father after a year because of heart attack, and then my mother after three months. You can say that there’s death wherever I go. I’m the last of my kind. Call me like that movie, The Last of the Mojicans. If you’re after experience, my life is my résumé, sir.”

“Very well,” Dick said.

And that was it. I nailed the job although I couldn’t believe it at first. Maybe Dick had no other choice but to approve the sole application for the only position in the office that no one took seriously. But as it turned out, there is more to obituaries than just dead people.


The obituaries section of any newspaper is fertile ground for people who indulge in travesty. If you are famous, others will say you deserve a space there when you are dead, as if it is a throne you must necessarily inherit when you have been reduced into a corpse, a blotter in the papers announcing that the king is dead, so long live the king. To say the least, I find it ridiculous and obnoxious. If you are famous and dead, there is a good chance that everyone already knows you are just that: famous and dead.

I reckon the main reason why others still do it to icons good or evil is this: it’s a statement calculated not only to unravel social connections but also to reinforce these bonds, for even in death the long shadow of ancient feudal societies continue to persist like severe trauma, a seemingly cureless affliction that propagates itself through human memory. Here, commiseration finds its raison d’etre, the very guise it takes form, which is the reaffirmation of the archetype that death will hardly blur the lines that bind one bureaucrat with another, one public figure with the rest of his kind, cadavers and all, for as long as the people are made to remember. Worse, even audacious commoners may try to secure their association with the departed as a gesture of recognizing their impoverished status and, as a corollary, of endorsing their selves for acceptance in the legion through the tacit approval of those seated in the circle of power. This, I think, is the hideous face of association through commiseration. Man’s thirst for ambition cannot be quenched. It grips them by the neck.

There can be different names across different vernaculars for the same banana. In the case of those whose only claim to fame is having been able to live an honorable life, others will try to milk their name for what it is worth. Some people are willing to pay the publishers of newspapers just to snag that opportunity to polish their egos with the luster radiating from the reputation of these dead ambassadors of human virtues. They hope that the prestige in character of the departed will somehow rub itself onto them. I understand that people never get tired of massaging their self-esteem, especially if they want to keep it alive.

You may say that I am a conduit to this abomination at the cost of monthly wages just a little above minimum. You are right.


The first time I met Monica, I confessed how lonely I was. It’s not that I needed a man so that I can finally become happy. Honestly, women do not need men — that is certain. Happiness knows no sexual orientation. Above all, happiness isn’t all about sex, although a certain part of it is. For one, the vagina is not necessarily made for the penis, and vice versa. For another, heterosexuality is a remnant of the dark ages that has been deconstructed countless of times it no longer means anything today other than promiscuity. I’m not a lesbian, though. I just needed someone, or something. Any other object would have been equally fine, not necessarily dildos. Pleasure and happiness are different sides of the same coin, but they are different just the same.

When Monica introduced us to each other, he must’ve thought he was so bad ass he could use a plate of barbed wires for lunch and a cup of rusty nails for dessert. He said he got the stitches across his shoulders from a car accident, which is why he no longer had his car. I easily doubted he ever had one in his life.

He thought he is tough, and I thought I’ll test up to what point his machismo will refuse to break. I was lonely, and he was the perfect subject for my little experiment, the guinea pig with eight stitches across his shoulders.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

1 comment:

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