Friday, April 1, 2011


On their first date, he explained that he wrote "advancers" for the local newspaper. When any person of note passed away, readers expected full profiles online within minutes; newspapers, then, were in the business of preparing such obituaries in advance. He estimated his office had 500 on file -- politicians and celebrities, the most famous, the oldest and most infirm, and of course those most likely to die from drugs or alcohol.

He saw it everywhere now. He made a game of it, thinking up the obits for fellow diners, the pre-deceased. Following a long illness. Survived by. The highlights of education and career.

He shrugged, embarrassed by his morbidity. Occupational hazard, he said.

But she laughed. She worked in a psychiatrist's office, transcribing the doctor's oral notes and maintaining the medical files. She would never breach confidentiality, of course, but she knew the patients on sight: name, number, neuroses. She played a different version of the same game. Who was addicted to what. Who was the cheater, who was the cheated. What would push someone over the edge.

He smiled. She took his hand. They decided to stay for coffee and dessert.

Naturally, when he started drinking and she let the relationship die, neither one of them saw it coming.

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