A year after the accident, Martin was in a terrible depression. Very little of the optimism the neurologist had initially expressed came to fruition, and only limited feeling had returned to his arms and hands. His legs remained completely paralyzed. It was a terrible reversal of fortune, the only good thing that could be said of the accident was that no one else was hurt; a blown tire sent Martin’s car careening into an overpass abutment, as he sped, flirting with the minute hand, away from his sleeping girlfriend’s house towards the metal bowls and bins of flour, waiting patiently for Martin to warm the room with the ovens in the ponderous dawn.
His therapist, searching for a breakthrough, finally recommended a mock funeral be staged at his parent’s home. His family and friends would come, speak in low tones, and pay their last respects to the Martin they’d known. Martin, with his particular enthusiasm for just-in-time arrivals, clouds of flour, and poaching backyard swimming pools after his shift ended. Thereafter, she’d sought to convince him, a new Martin might emerge. The hope being Martin himself, lying there upon a table covered with a foam pad below a white sheet, would see the true void of his absence. It seemed to him like an exorcism. He was supposed to emerge with a fainter memory of his former-self and the will to endure this new stillness. He was still here, she kept saying.
It would be impossible for guests of the funeral to stare at his face, propped upon a thin pillow, and not become frozen with self-consciousness as they attempted to distill their memories of Martin to a few quiet words whispered into his still hearing ears. His mother looked into his eyes, asked him if he was ready, and pulled the sheet over his face before allowing the guests inside from the backyard patio.
The mourners shuffled into the living room where they could view the immobile human form resting on the table, white tent of nose to left sloping down past mouth and chin, illuminated by the harsh afternoon sun, dust glinting like sugar in the light from the bay window.
His aunt Denise was the first to cross into the room, and alone knelt with knees on carpet and hand resting in the crook of Martin’s elbow. Martin could feel her face near his ear, her breath tickling the sheet against his cheek. It had taken the therapist several sessions to convince him that this was a good idea that could lead to a breakthrough. It took another session to talk his parents through the process. In turn, they explained to the guests in the backyard, out of earshot of Martin, they were to act as though Martin was truly dead. These were the last words or memories they might ever share with him, they said, so that he might taste of a world where he was truly gone.
His aunt exhaled the scent of cookies through the sheet. Squeezing his eyes shut tighter, Martin conjured the sugary nape of his ex-girlfriend’s neck, her caramel shoulders, marzipan perfume, and desperately wished she wasn’t out in the living room, carefully preparing her words among the silent crowd. He already wanted to sit up and call this off. There was still so much to forget.