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Writers' Club of Whittier

Awakening: the Afterlife


It always freaks me out when I learn of a divorce. Friendships, relationships with cousins or my own siblings I can live without, even children will eventually have their own lives, but marriage is a sacred bond to me. The agony of marital failure, to my imagination, is like the pain caused by one’s dismemberment. How can one possibly grow another limb to replace the missing one?
My mother, who disliked pets to the point where she allowed a dogcatcher (in Vietnam it means a dog eater) to come and take away my pet dog, Kiki, because he had the habit of darting outside our gate and terrorizing the street urchins—biting sometimes, used to tell us, “One may even learn to love a dog after living with it.”
As my mother’s daughter, however, I grew up getting easily attached to things I owned, animate as well as inanimate objects. I seemed to imprint myself upon my surroundings: my pets, my room, my pen, books, walls, home, streets I walked on….I felt a certain loyalty to everything that populated my world. I would defend them with a sword if I had to, if I possessed such a sword and lived in such a time that allowed killing or dismembering of enemies.
All of the above is to say, after four years owning my iPhone 4s, I mourned its untimely death deeply. Methinks, ridiculous of me to think this a sudden departure, since four years for a delicate, obsolete-prone gadget is way up there in age. Plus, it had been giving signs of deterioration, and if I had been less sentimental, I should have taken action to replace it.
For three solid days, I pondered my next steps to dispose my dear cell phone. Sentiment aside, it held many of my important (the correct lingo is sensitive) information. Just to give my reader an idea, it had a few pictures of my belly fat, the ones I took of myself in front of the mirror in scantily-clad items, just to have a good honest assessment of my physical state. On it reside a few last video clips of my father, when he stared out bewildered to me, a stranger, a meanie fart who forced him to get off the pee-soaked bed, who kept asking him questions that he had no idea what they meant, who told him she wasn’t his dear mother, but his own daughter. He had no memory of being married, left alone fathering children. She dared say he had nine. He wished he could slap her arrogant face. As if she knew better than him about his own life.
On the third day of my cell phone’s death, I ordered a new cell phone because I had no more options, because the deadline to get a discount from Costco for such a device was that day, and because my family was traveling abroad and could only communicate with me sporadically through Facetime, iMessage, Skype, or email, and none of these were within reach unless I sat glued to my computer screen all day long, which I did, for those last three days, frustration mounting with a temporary flip phone borrowed from my daughter. After the order was confirmed I gathered all the spare chargers and my 4s for a burial ritual. And it did feel like one!
It was in my most desperate moments that I behaved most Catholic-like. I still hoped for a miracle, just like over a year ago I had thought, if I kept at it, bringing Dad out to sunbathe and let him listen to classical music, feed him this new powder my sister-in-law was raving about to be a wonder supplement, the course of his illness would slow down, maybe even reverse. In that same burning hope I plugged my three-day dead 4s in for the last time. I had plugged it in many hours previously, I must admit, switching to different outlets because I didn’t want to assume anything, exchanging chargers, blah-blah-blah. A good engineer is one who always begins with the simplest formula, such as, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If it doesn’t turn on, check the battery, check the on-off switch, or check your mental acumen before attempting to repair. When I concluded that my 4s was dead, I had gone through my whole checklist.
Still, my hope burned bright. Still, I plugged the dead, cold as ice body of my 4s in to give it a last chance. So that I could part with it without regret, for “I have done all I could!”
I went about my chores to get my mind off the funeral process. After I had washed the dishes, cleaned the kids’ rooms, vacuumed the floor, folded the clothes, there was nothing left to occupy me further. I went back to my study to check on the body of my 4s lying in state on the floor by the outlet. Its face was blank and dark, just like I had expected. I unplugged it for the last time. This, I knew, was the final goodbye, because even hope was dead.
After I wound the cord up, I couldn’t resist the urge to push on my 4s’ home button. It was a hard-wired habit, like checking for its presence in my purse before heading out, like turning myself around in front of the mirror for a final inspection before taking off to make sure my bra straps didn’t stick out conspicuously or my socks mismatched or my hose ripped.
My dad had nine lives. He outlived his last, unfortunately. Born in a three-generation Catholic family, I called each of his rebound a resurrection. For fear of being labeled blasphemous, I was afraid to apply the same term to an inanimate object that is nothing but a consumer good, silicon-filled and soul-less. But you see, when my naked eyes perceived the lit up screen of my three-day dead 4s, I believed I experienced what the women of biblical time experienced when they walked into Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. His body was nowhere to be found inside the burial chamber, or otherwise stated, he was gone from the place where his body should be. In Jesus’ case the women had thought the Romans had removed his body and done something sacrilegious to it. In my case, I had no doubt about what I saw: my 4s relived. It came back as good as new. It awoke from the dark world beyond. It was given a second life.


Author: Hong-My Basrai

Memoirist and author of Behind the Red Curtain, blogger, engineer, manager, mother of three and wife of one, etc. I am a bit of everything.

2 thoughts on “Awakening: the Afterlife

  1. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, unless it’s Hong-My’s cigar, in which case it’s a delight and a wonder, full of import. Touching and amusing by turns. 🙂

  2. Hi Hong-My, love your witty writing as always. It’s funny but my nick-name as a child was Ki-Ki (My brothers couldn’t pronounce Kathleen as children. I too am attached to old things. Bob and I will be married 56 years this June! But neither of us have a Smart Phone, just Dumb Phones. Bob said he didn’t want a device that was smarter than him. Blessings in this Lenten Season as we look forward to the Resurrection. Kay


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