“But, honey, did you apply for life insurance or not?” my mother asks me rather sincerely.
I cast aside the book I am reading, stretch myself out on the couch, and walk up to the window. Outside, the sun’s coming out of tiny, pink clouds. Duh, I say to myself. Who chooses a beautiful day like this to discuss mortality?
“It’s because…,” I half-heartedly mutter something under my breath. My mother looks too sinister all of a sudden, her gaze too prowling. So I take out my cell phone, and pretend to check for messages. My thoughts are interrupted by the violent scraping of a plate, and when I look up, I find my mother munching on the last of the peanut salad I made her last night.
“Oh, mom,” I almost cry out. “You’re hungry! Would you like a burger from Snack Time? It’s offering a 20% discount.” She readily agrees, and I sigh like the kid who managed to change the TV channel just when that raunchy scene was coming up.
It was too much of a headache, honestly. I was single and living on a meager salary, and therefore, did not want to go a step further and officially sign a pact that otherwise meant “Hello…my sad life is going to sadly end one day, I don’t know how, so I am leaving some money behind…Bye bye!” Was that all my sad life measured up to? No way! There was enough of existential crisis for that.
And, oh, paying the premiums! It felt like a fool-proof way to invite death (Laws of Attraction, anyone?). In the shallow light of many a dawn, I imagined Yama coming to deliver the money to my family after I was gone, and my mother offering him a cup of tea to appreciate his kindness.
“Thank you, I hope you’re keeping my daughter well. How do you find her?”
“Ah! Very stubborn…but you’d be happy to know that she has a boyfriend now.”
But life, as they say, has its own way of teaching you lessons. I landed this job at the Brand Studio, where my initial months involved a lot of writing about, ahem, the importance of life insurance. I wasn’t bothered, of course, until things started getting out of hand.
While interviewing somebody, I imagined her telling me, “How do you think you are going to write about something you don’t believe in?” Later, outrageously, the same person often haunted me in my dreams as the female incarnation of Yama. It was pretty strange, really, but not as strange as the things that started happening to me soon after that.
No matter where I went, I chanced upon the word insurance. It came up on billboards, forgotten magazines, and weary-looking cars. It came up during conversations at family dinners, office washrooms, and locker rooms. All this scared me to the point that I even imagined the grocery store owner denying me entry into his premises for want of a life insurance policy.
When I reached out to my friend for help, he told me what I was experiencing is largely called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or the frequency illusion. You know, when a thing you’ve just noticed or experienced starts cropping up in your life constantly? Yes, that’s right; it happens because your brain tends to pay selective attention, so that you end up noticing that thing more often. Relieved, I went back to living in my la-la land.
Then one day, things changed forever. I remember I was alone at home, reading a particularly grisly book about a serial killer till late into the night. After I slept off, I was awakened by this noise. I froze; the face of the serial killer flashed into my mind. When I looked up, I saw the window curtain gently swaying.
Fearfully, I peered through the glass. Maybe this was it, I told myself. My end had finally come, and I would die without a life insurance policy. Murder, and only murder, would be my punishment for not taking it seriously. And in that instant, I realized what the noise was about—it was Drake, my neighbourhood Siamese cat, desperately hunting for prey.
The next day, I visited an insurance office with an armload of documents. Cat, or no cat, I definitely needed a policy.
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