Act 2, Scene 1: Everyone Needs a Funeral Director, But No One Likes a Funeral Director
Simona rushes into a bar after work to meet her former classmate, Michelle, for a drink. Michelle is an up-and-coming magazine writer with serious connections in the very business that Simona wanted to get into... before she had to take any job she could find to pay the bills.
Michelle is already at the bar when Simona arrives. She is getting impatient.
SIMONA (Breathless) Oh my gosh, Hi! Sorry I’m late!
MICHELLE Geez! Yeah, you are! (Half hugs Simona.) What happened?
SIMONA I had a late arrangement. My boss scheduled her for 4:30. I went as fast as I could, but you can't really rush some things, I guess.
MICHELLE (Confused, mildly condescending.) So, you’re not greeting people at funerals anymore?
SIMONA Well, yes, but I got my Funeral Director’s license a few months ago and now I’m making arrangements, too. Wow! It's been a long time since we talked!
MICHELLE I guess so!
SIMONA Oh my god, I need a drink. (Laughing, waves to the waiter.)
MICHELLE I already started. (Laughing.) It was a long day for me, too.
SIMONA Yeah? What's going on? How’s the magazine?
MICHELLE (Excited, as if she couldn't wait for Simona to ask.) Oh my god, Simona, it is so awesome. I am loving the work so much.
SIMONA Yeah? Tell me!
(Waiter arrives at the table.)
WAITER What can I get you?
SIMONA Hi, I'll have a Cosmo, please. Strong. (Both girls laugh.)
WAITER Coming right up.
MICHELLE I can't believe I am getting paid to do the work I do. I mean, it is so amazing and fun and interesting. There's such a huge range of stories, and that's what I love. I'm assigning stories, editing, getting art together... And I have the greatest boss. She knows, like everything about EVERYTHING. And the photographers! There’s no more of that documentary, go out to the ‘hood and take pictures of vacant buildings and people lying in the gutter. Thank God. Now it’s all about the studio and lighting and models! It’s so freaking glamorous! I. Am. So. Lucky!
SIMONA (Sincere) That’s great! (Pauses, opportunistically asks.) Do you need freelancers?
(Waiter brings drink)
MICHELLE Um, maybe. (Quickly changes subject.) So what about you? What’s going on with you?
SIMONA (Half joking) I thought that's why you asked me out for drinks... because you had an assignment for me.
MICHELLE Oh! Oh my god. I just wanted to catch up... I mean... (Pauses.) I guess I could show your clips to the Managing Editor... but they're always more interested in writers who are... like... writers.
SIMONA I am a writer.
MICHELLE Yeah, but you do something else full time. And I think if they knew what you did, that might not fly with... you know, with the brand.
SIMONA Oh... ok...
MICHELLE I thought you were going to leave the funeral home after grad school? Was this supposed to be a forever thing?
SIMONA No… but I stayed. It’s a good job for me, I guess. I don’t want to intern out in the middle of nowhere. You know? And that’s all I saw when I looked around. I’m not interested. And I like what I’m doing. It’s interesting.
(Pauses, speaks as if pleased with herself.) Today I made three arrangements… that’s a lot. One for a woman who finally died after being sick for years, one for a lady who hung herself in her soon-to-be ex-husband’s house, and the last one, the reason I was late, was for a guy who found out he was sick, like a month ago and… didn’t last long. After lunch I did a lady’s hair and make-up and tomorrow I have to help get this giant man into a casket that’s way too small for him. And, his wife wants his clothes back at the end of the funeral! Not sure how that’s going to work! (Laughs) Never a dull moment!
MICHELLE (Grossed out.) Oh my god. That sounds… disgusting.
SIMONA I’m so sorry! I just start talking and I forget this stuff isn’t for everyone. I’m sorry. I spend my days with embalmers and... It’s funny, you get a bunch of embalmers together and they just swap stories about the nastiest, most awful ways people have died. Oh my gosh, today I was hanging out with my co-worker Joe who told me about a woman who killed herself up in her family’s attic. They thought she went missing. Then her body started to decompose and everyone started smelling something. Can you imagine?
MICHELLE (Appalled.) Do you like working around that?
SIMONA That’s the hardest question to answer. If you say you like it, then you sound like some weird Vampira chick. But you have to like your work or you couldn’t do it, right? I mean, someone has to do this work. (Direct.) People die, Michelle. It’s a fact of life. Not a pleasant one, but…
MICHELLE I know, I know. Of course! Someone has to do it.
I've only been to one funeral. It was for my grandma. I remember seeing her in the casket… So weird. She didn’t even look like herself.
Why is that?
SIMONA Why didn’t she look like herself?
SIMONA Well, when you think about it, we go through life with all our histories and stresses and experiences - we wear that on our faces and carry it on our bodies. And when you're sick, that shows in your face… on your body. When people die, all the stress goes away, their faces relax, maybe change from what we're used to seeing. Maybe that’s what happened to your grandma.
MICHELLE I think she was embalmed. Isn’t that when they remove all your organs? That’s what my dad said.
SIMONA No. Embalming replaces blood with chemicals. The chemicals delay the process of decomposition, you know, so you can have a service. (Matter-of-fact, but treading lightly, as if hoping not to offend.) Our bodies start to decompose immediately after we die. The blood settles to the lowest point… there’s discoloration, odor… If you don't embalm someone, you have to keep them in the refrigerator, because the cold slows down the decomposition process too, a little bit like chemicals do. Sounds like that’s why your family had your grandma embalmed - so they could have a service and visitation and all that.
MICHELLE Um, okay, so you’re a regular expert now. Are you going to get a degree in funerals or something? Embalming, or whatever?
(Simona starts to answer, but Michelle interrupts, raises her glass to toast.)
Let’s talk about something else! We're off work, right? Cheers! (Simona obliges, smiles, raises her glass and toasts with Michelle.)