Illustrator: Cathy Zhang

Illustrator: Cathy Zhang

A boy is kicking his legs underneath the table. His father speaks to him with a gruff voice, “Tommy, come say goodbye to Aunt Maria.”

The boy continues kicking. The camera pans onto his face.

“Tommy, now.”

The boy stares stubbornly at his plate of wilting leaves.

“Why. Is. She. Leaving.”

He punctuates each word with a kick. The camera zooms out and we see his father’s face. It is pained. He does not understand.

“I don’t know, son. But this is what Aunt Maria wants. Don’t you want your aunty to be happy?”


A click of the tape recorder, a whirring sound.

“So, has it helped knowing what she plans now? Well, before it actually happens?”

A woman is sitting across from a couple; she is a journalist. The man starts to speak.

“It’s been difficult. Um, my husband and I both agree that it is unfair. We feel like we can’t do anything for her – but dammit – this is probably the only way we could make a difference.”

“Did you want to stop her?”

His husband grips onto the first man’s arm, and speaks with a tightly controlled voice.

“Of course we tried to stop her; she’s my husband’s only sister. She’s part of this family; she doesn’t understand how this will affect us all. Our son doesn’t understand why his aunt, his only aunt, is going away forever. How do we explain such a concept to a kid? How will we get through this?”

The woman reaches over and hits a button on the recorder. A tense silence falls upon the room.

“Will you two be okay?”

The man grips his husband’s arm tighter.


Aunt Maria is putting her shoes on, and reaches for her jacket. The little boy speaks.

“I don’t want you to leave.”

She looks up with red eyes, and smiles. “None of you deserve this; most of all you. You’re so small… But promise me this: that you’ll always be in control of your life – who you are, what your opinions are. Never let something or someone come into your life and take it over. Promise?”

The little boy nods solemnly. She smiles, truly this time.

“Come give your aunty one last hug.”

The boy runs with his arms open.


The woman hits the tape recorder, and speaks above the whirring.


The woman across from her, Aunt Maria, grimaces.

“I let it go too far. After he died, I had no direction, no control. You have to understand that we were one. We weren’t complete without each other… he was literally there all the time. When he left, I felt so alone, so far from who I used to be. Do you know that I had to take all the mirrors down? I couldn’t look. But one day, I woke up and it was okay. I felt a calmness that I hadn’t felt for a very long time, and I was by myself, so it was a very new feeling. And it felt wrong to be alright, to have gotten over it. I went to go buy more mirrors afterwards, but nothing helped… all I could see was my face, one person staring back in the mirror. And I couldn’t live like this. I’ll always be either completely alone in the world, or wracked with guilt because I’m not. So I decided to end it all…I realized that I didn’t really have to live like this. So I made my decision and called my brother. Is that normal?”

The journalist shakes her head, and uncrosses her legs.

“People generally do not call their brothers once they have made the decision to kill themselves.”

Aunt Maria laughs. “Well, it is what it is.”

The journalist leans forward. “What about the effect this will have on your family, their young son?”

Aunt Maria swallows. “I keep reminding myself that this won’t ruin their lives. In the long run, we’ll both be happier – and that’s the ultimate goal right? I don’t even know what I’m looking for, whether I’m expecting to be reunited with him, or something. I’m not even religious, but somehow I know that this is something I need to do.”

“How are you going to do it?”

“Painlessly, possibly, but probably not without pain: I’d like to remember that I was once alive.”