I was on time when I arrived at Gary’s wake. Gary was 24 years old. When I walked through the parlor’s stark white double doors I nearly walked into two blonde kids along the way. One of them, the one chasing the other, looked up at me and said: “Sorry mister.”
I had known Gary Ishihara from high school. I was a freshman when he was my peer leader and on his way to medical school at UPenn. Doey eyed, bright, and a great singer, I always pictured him becoming a stage performer in the City. I kept telling him after every performance he’d do for our school that he needed to sing. He needed to go out there and become a performer. He was that good.
“I thought about it once,” he told me. “But really, I can’t do that. It’s unrealistic.” Gary Ishihara was the guy who let me in on the secret to growing up. It’s all about being realistic and pleasing someone else.
When it was my turn to view the casket it was only then I noticed it was closed. I saw his family, large in number, wailing so loud the tiny viewing room shook. The parlor’s caretaker, an old and frail white man, stood uneasily nearby trying hard not to cover his ears. You’d think a weekly rotation of dead bodies would numb anyone by now.
Jake and all the other Asian kids I knew from high school were there too. They came all this way to Jersey from universities that look at the number of Asians per student body as a badge of honor. I asked them all, how did he die? Catherine was the last person to speak to Gary the week before he died, and she was friends of the family so she had the ability to hide the truth first. “Head on collision. It was painful for them to even look at him. That’s why they closed,” she tried to mention the box that held Gary together. She didn’t. She couldn’t stop sobbing.
Whenever I asked someone close to Gary or the family the why questions the answer would always be the same: “Head on collision.” I stopped asking after a while and a week later Jake threw a house party. All the Asian kids stopped by and we talked, and cooked, and sang, and watched Friends with Benefits and slowly forgot that Gary Ishihara was buried in Pennsylvania a few days ago.
I thought about hooking up with Catherine that night but she fell asleep on my arm as we watched the movie. When everyone else fell asleep, Jake and I grabbed two bottles of Shiraz and I watched him play Skyrim before I passed out too.