Business IntimacyA Chapter by TLK
She used that word.
She came to me with hollow terror in her eyes.
“I’d just been thinking,” she said, “of what would happen if---”
She stopped there, but her pupils darted around instead, uncomfortable.
I took her gently by the arms and shoulders. I brought her in. She sat.
“Have you been talking to somebody? What did they say?”
“Well,” and she reached into her bag for a tissue. Once, twice, then again and again, out came a used tissue. With each one she would bring it to her face, almost use it, pause, cram it back into the bottom of the bag. And each time she would almost look at me and start with "Well," but distract herself.
“Well,” she eventually continued, “I just talking to Sally, and she mentioned the Benjamins, and how awful it all was. She used that word.”
I was expected to fill the gaps. Cancer, I thought. Synonyms of disease, of plague. No, some other kind of death, not the cause of death, the result. Loneliness. Destitution. What can make a young woman -- still in full health, still steering her way through the first decisions, struggling from her chrysalis, beating wings in the morning sun as they fill with fluid -- pause for so long on this precipice?
“You know, predecease.” It rang with finality, it echoed in the caverns of her eyes. It wasn’t muffled by the heap of tissues that she was now discarding to her right.
“Sally said,” and she was barely even checking the tissues now, her hand was telling her that they were crumpled and dirty and useless, “that the best thing anybody can do is to outlive their parents. To die an orphan. That this is what we hope for. This is the best way.”
I nodded, although to be honest I hadn’t given much thought to it. I watched her heap up the tissues. I thought that surely she had excavated her whole bag, the heap was encroaching on the edge of the table.
“But what if I do predecease them? What if they are left alone, together, or one or the other?”
For my part, I was twiddling with my pen over a writing pad I rarely used. I let consoling words come out as I watched her make her pyre.
“We can put plans into motion,” I reassured. “We can rely on a system that will dictate events. We can sign, notarise, file away. We can structure your assets so that there is always a portion left.”
And, all the while, I was distracted. She was pulling the used tissues out, never-ending. Bored, fantasy took over. I imagined the table spilling over. I imagined the tissues mating on the floor. I imagined her sunk, preserved beneath their crumpled gown. I imagined a sign, 'dig me out when you need me'. Her parents, glad for their benefactor, marvelling at the sacrifices made. Enjoying cruises on what was left. Living the freedom of their retired life to the fullest. One day waiting for their daughter to wake up again; to wake up exultant, orphaned at last.
© 2013 TLK
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