"It's better if you see the corpse," she argued with earnest. "When my mother died it was hard to see her face remade by the coroner, but at least I knew she was dead." They both grimaced and he held her, sorry again for the millionth time for all she had lost. She continued, more gingerly, less to explain than to express.
"With my father it was different. He had been sick for so long and he was dead in his bed. That's where I saw him. He looked pretty much the same as he had the last few weeks, the cancer addling his brain. Face slightly yellow, his teeth coated in disuse. But he still smelled like him, you know? Death doesn't begin to smell until at least a day in."
He wondered how she could talk about this with so much ease. He supposed this is how stories go - the shock at first makes it easy, then there's the pain, and after awhile it's like telling a gory story of losing a limb or even cutting your finger - once it's healed, or basically healed, it becomes just a story again.
"The only person I lost was a friend's brother in high school." She perked up - she thought he hadn't lost anyone to death, actually. "Jonas, he was the brother of John. Older by a couple of years and really messed up. Did a fair amount of drugs, was pretty depressed. Slunk through the hallways of high school like he was already a ghost. A returning senior - almost on his way out, if he would pass, that is." His voice got soft, eyes focused on the far wall of their bedroom. She shifted her body closer to his, listening with her legs to his warmth.
"Jonas, he came to school one day and said goodbye to his brother John, my friend, and his sister. Then he walked a few blocks away, went out into the middle of an intersection, and put a .22 in his mouth."
They both paused, took a few deep breaths. Sensational news come alive in this history of his life. Amazing.
"His brother and sister went to the principal immediately after he walked out of the building, so the cops were following him. They tried to talk him out of it - even his parents were there. Begging him not to jump off the building ledge of life. But their attention only aggravated him more. I guess he wasn't just crying for help, huh?"
Tears sprung up in the corner of his eyes and she kissed them away.
"He shot himself in the middle of an intersection, cars paused with reverence, not a one honking and no one screaming, his parents and teachers watching on. The funeral was closed casket, obviously."
The second of their two cats leapt onto the bed just then, surprising them out of the mystery of the story. Her calico sleek reset the tone as she snuggled in between what space was left behind his back and in front of her belly. She let out a satisfied sigh of comfort and the two of them smiled, weak with wonder.
What she didn't tell him is that the body of the house she grew up in still haunts her memory. Skeleton, walless, wild in the wind, burnt umber bones returning to the ground.