Name: Nurin Chatur
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Title: The Incoherency of Now
Hudson, Ruth Constance. Born July 4, 1916-(insert date). Mrs. Hudson of New York City passed away on Saturday (date) at the age of 97. Mrs. Hudson leaves behind five children (Delia Johnson, Jim Hudson, Matthew Hudson, Josephine Grant and James Hudson), 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren as well as many other relatives, friends and members of her community. She will be sorely missed. Donations to her family may be made to the American Heart Foundation.
Even though we’ve gone digital in every other way, I swear I can hear the hands turn on the old battery powered clock that hangs in the New York Post’s Offices, marking the painfully slow passing of the work day and the ever approaching deadline I have to meet. I read the obituary over again, jaw grinding in a yawn. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and even though I’m often bored to tears, it still sometimes strikes me that what I’m writing right now is the last time someone’s name will appear anywhere. For some, it may be the only time that they’ll have any sort of public recognition of their lives. That’s why, even though I hate my job, I try to take notice of the person’s whose obituary I’m editing and find a way to respect their passing.
It’s strange how the obituaries don’t seem to be about the person who died but really seem to be a proclamation about their family. Take Mrs. Hudson, for instance. Sure, she’s left behind this massive progeny who will hopefully continue to procreate until the end of time. That’s her mark on the world. Still, I’m uncomfortable with how we focus on the work of her reproductive organs instead of on her own personal thoughts, fears and dreams.
For instance, is it important to tell the world about her great-grandchildren in this short blurb? Why? Is this to console us by saying that there’s part of Mrs. Hudson still alive and traipsing around New York City in a stroller?I guess we’ll never know the intent since she’s dead and other people get to decide what will be written in her obituary, write the ending of her life narrative, if you will. Pondering these things makes work pass by, while simultaneously reinforcing my existential crisis.
I rub my eyes, trying to stave off a headache. If this is how the ideal obituary is supposed to look like, mine will be sorely lacking considering how I don’t have mini-me’s wandering about. I wonder what mine should include. If some bored soul waiting at the doctor’s office ended up skimming over it in the paper, I want them to get a sense of me, so I can live on for a few more minutes. I chew on a useless ink pen as I write.
Moore, Eleanor Ellie Scott. Born September 11, 1989. Ms. Scott, formerly of Therie, PA passed away (hopefully not today..) in New York City at the age of 24. Ms. Scott leaves behind those who are forced to love her which include, her parents- also known as those who participated in her making- as well as her Aunt Susannah Elis and the stray friends she has picked up during her rather stunted life. Ellie also leaves behind a pile of student loans, dreams of a successful journalism career and her life companion, her dog, Rufus. Memorial donations will be gratefully accepted at the Save Rufus from the Shelter fund.
I wasted fifteen minutes on that. The NYP just paid me to write my own obituary but whatever. Even though the journalism industry is in the shitter, it’s not like they’ll miss the cash. After all, it’ll save the lackey hired after me from having to write it.
A light blinks out from the corner of my eye. It’s my phone, nudging at me in the subtle way it does when it’s already been turned on silent. Zach. I pick up even though I should be working and my chest clenches and my toes are warm even though I’ve known him forever.
Even though I’m aflutter, he’s all business. “We’re still on for tonight?” is how he greets me, because his break-times are short. His voice is like a croissant, buttery and smooth and though fifteen year old me would squeal internally about his choice of the word “we,” 24 year old me understands “we” means “our friends” not “Zach+Ellie.”
“Definitely. I’ll let everyone know to meet at 9ish?” We chat for another minute and then I hang up the phone. It’s just like me to move to one of the most exciting cities in the world and be mooning over the boy next door. I smile sloppily at the ceiling, neglecting the gazillion pieces I have to churn out today.
Sierra pokes her head over my cubicle. She’s frowning again. I guess obituary writers aren’t supposed to be bright and chipper. Nor are they supposed to use their phones during work hours.
“Eleanor,” Sierra says as if she’s my superior instead of the other lackey they hired a mere 4 months before me, “are you finished with your pieces, they have to be run at four you know. We don’t want our department to submit them late!”
She’s huffy with importance, thin lips pursued. Not sure what got her panties in a wad. She’s at least on the Classifieds section instead of the Obituaries, so it’s not like she’s thinking about dead people all day. However, some of the ads that are submitted are for items that should be six feet under. You know, like at a dump.
“Don’t worry, Sierra” I grit my teeth into a superficial smile, “they’ll be done by 3:30.” Her lips almost de-purse, but they’re so sunken into her hollow cheeks that I can’t be sure.
“Well, since you’re almost done,” she pauses for a second, looking at me intently, “ Wait, do you have ink in your mouth?”
So that’s the bitter taste that’s been swirling on my tongue. I gulp down some more coffee. “Nope, it must be the lighting,” I say, hoping my voice doesn’t betray the lie. “So you were saying?”
“Right. The contest is open now. Oh wait, ” her laugh thrills through her lips, “You’re pretty new here, do you know what I’m talking about?”
My heart sinks. She’s only talking about the NYP’s famous Young Writer’s Contest, the one that all would-be-journalists dream of winning. I’d thought about entering this year, but I feel even more unprepared for it as I did during my undergrad. There at least I was writing essays, pieces for the school journal and other assignments. Now I spend all my time rewording the phrase, “It is with the greatest sorrow that we announce the passing of..”
“Um, it sounds familiar but I haven’t heard of any details,” I lie. I can’t imagine entering against her. Despite all of her uppity-ness, Sierra has a fancy Ivy League Journalism Degree while I’m from a random liberal college upstate. Just thinking about entering makes me nauseous. Competing against Sierra means that I’ll be perpetually upchucking my lunch.
“I’m going to enter,” she whispers like we’re co-conspirators, not co-workers who do our best to tolerate each other.
“That’s great!” My voice is falsely chipper; she smiles and starts to move back to her desk, head tall as if she’s already won. I watch her leave, gnawing on my inky pen.
“So am I,” I finally say. She doesn’t hear me.