Funeral

I remember sensations. Sunday morning in someone else’s kitchen, the inviting smell of food offerings. The smooth marble floor and the almost bare, deliberately sparse living room of my mother’s old home. The women converse in the old kitchen, age tearing off its walls like bark peels off a sick tree. It is a kitchen cluttered with pots and pans and cooked dishes oddly reminding me of home, but yet remaining distinctly unfamiliar. Another conversation happens in the living room: an uncle perches himself comfortably on the wooden, non-cushioned sofa as he talks to my two cousins, both of whom are taking a brief respite before they return to the buzz of the funeral. How strange are these simple conversations, yet these very conversations are the kinds I cannot have with my direct kin. Simple, familial exchanges. He asks my same-aged cousin what she looks for in a boyfriend. She replies curtly but not rudely: one who would be filial to her mother. Her sister’s boyfriend strides out of the room and for a brief second contemplates the presence of the unneeded intruder that I am. I pretend to gaze into blank space; I might as well have been. He walks to the balcony and helps himself into a proper pair of pants. Striding over to his girlfriend, I hear a kiss happen. Sunday morning in my uncle’s house, my mother’s old house, and I am in my rightful place as an observer.

There is something sad about how brief these funerals are, that an hour after it ends, all the frames are taken down, the flower wreaths, kept, and the workers sweep in with the cool efficiency of the Singaporean bureaucracy. The altar is gone and never will return for the same person. The makeshift room which contained the coffin is stripped of its sanctity and the space returns to its original meaning, or rather, the original lack of a meaning: the void deck. The words “void deck” is the emptiest phrase I have ever known in my life; the way it rings so hollowly upon my tongue, it feels almost like nothing. And people will pass through it like they always do, vaguely aware that a funeral had happened the past four days (or did it?) and the funeral — it could be any funeral, really — will slip out of their minds as quickly as the thought of it had entered. Death is a part of life, we all know it. Yet to contemplate the entirety of the meaning of this sentence will only cause us grief. We pass from life into death, thoughts into nothingness. And I guess this is how void decks work too. In its endless liminality, people are always passing through it, both the living and the dead.

Like what you read? Give Jie Lin a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.