Six Feet Under
But since I could not go around the world doing that- blaming others instead of myself- I would hate the wall instead. Ugly Buttercups.
I took a glance at my left, then at my right, and it was all the same. A big mass of black moving across the room, lurking shadows, dancing with one another. It had all been this way for weeks now. I had been wearing this exact same dress every single day, the black tights, the uncomfortable shoes, all of it. Black. Just black.
“Evan,” the familiar voice of my mother called from behind me, I turned to face her. “It’s time.”
We made our way outside. The wind felt cold against my skin, so strong I felt like someone had slapped me. Dark clouds hovered, humidity palpable, the grief everywhere, like a blanket over your shoulders that you just can’t seem to shake off and you so desperately want to, like a rope around your neck, getting tighter and tighter, yet not killing you, and you can’t make up your mind on what you want more, for it to loosen up or do the opposite and finish you. You just want it to stop.
We reached the graveyard. I glanced at the faces surrounding me, the ones that had been here day after day. We all carried the same weight, a cold and bitter winter inside our hearts, not knowing when would it go, or if it ever would. We were all here for the same reason, to watch the people we most loved be buried six feet under. And today it was my turn. One would think that when a tragedy like this falls upon a whole town it would bring us closer; sharing such a deep pain making us stand side by side. But it did just the opposite. Maybe, when there is such an incredible amount of sadness, all it can do is draw apart. It’s knowing things won’t ever –can’t ever be the same. And so we became strangers. After all, how many times can things fall before they finally shatter? I looked up at the sky, the furious clouds now completely covering the cementer. A promise of rain and lighting.
As I got closer to the casket, I could start to make out his features. Now soft, peaceful, lifeless. . . My father. The world began to slow down. I started to feel this pressure in my chest, like someone was squeezing my ribs and I couldn’t breathe. Like a piece of hard bread was being shoved down my throat and I couldn’t swallow it. I could feel the panic begin to rise inside of me. Deep breaths, I told myself, it’s the last one. And even though in a couple of more days I would be far away from here, from all of this, I knew it would last. This would accompany me wherever I went, deep under my skin; forever tattooed in me, a haunting ghost that would never fade away. I was gasping, the lump had grown bigger, I needed to breathe and as much as I tried I simply couldn’t. My world was coming to a stop.
We were even closer. My mind was racing and I started to see flashbacks of the different scenes that had been playing in this same scenario. The same caskets, different people in them, all of them just gone. Yesterday, Em, Clary and Mel where being buried here, in three identical caskets, together, It’s what they would have wanted, everyone said. They were best friends, it’s how it was supposed to be. They forgot someone was missing, we were four best friends, four, and three were now gone. They left me alone, how was I supposed to face this? We had been together all of our lives, they were my life. I didn’t know how to live without them. Who was I supposed to be now? The world they left behind was becoming impossible to bear: Clary’s mother falling to her knees in a desperate cry for her child. Em’s stood silent, unmoving, tears flowing down her cheeks like a never ending river, broken. Mel’s mom wasn’t there, she was still in the hospital. The doctors said it was most likely she wouldn’t make it. And as horrible as it sounds, I was terrified that she would. Who would tell her that her only child was gone? That. Her. Daughter. Was. Dead. They left me to deal with everything on my own. I should have been there with them. And the day before, the ones being buried had been my neighbor and his wife, his pregnant wife.
And so on and on, a big part of the community now lay here, everyone that had been in that bus. Bus number 2. Crashed. No survivors. They were all stuck here in this infinite sleep. I should have been with them when it happened, I shouldn’t be here. I should be with my dad, with my friends. . . I should. . . I should.
We took a seat in the chairs that had been arranged under a tent to cover us from the weather. Someone was at the front, a man I couldn’t recognize, though I believed he worked with my dad. He was talking about what a great man he had been, what an amazing father he used to be, what an excellent friend he was, how brave he was. . .was, how, had, was, was, was. . . he will never be again. I looked at my father again, at his face. He would never open his eyes too look at me, to give me that secret look that meant I could go to the party, but that I shouldn’t tell mom or we would both get in trouble. His eyes would never show any emotion, the purse of his lips when he was upset, the turn of his brow, the beginning of a smile. That face would never move its lips to whisper I love you. That was not my father. My father had a beating heart, a beaming soul. That was just a corpse. No one and nothing was going to bring him back. My world stopped.
My mother, who was sitting next to me, patted my back. “Let’s go,” she said, motioning for me to go up front and say a few kind words. I stood up mechanically, my legs moving without my consent. But as I got closer I started to regain control over me, the lump in my throat reappearing, this time completely impossible to swallow. What was I supposed to say? Whatever nice words inside of me, whatever feelings I had left. . . It did not matter. Not anymore. He. Was. Gone. He was never coming back. What was the point in saying thing’s people already knew? Thing’s that should have been said while he was alive and at his face, when his heart was still beating in his chest. Not now that it was too late for him to hear. I stopped walking. My mother noticed and turned to look at me “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Wrong question. What wasn’t wrong?
“No,” I whispered, my throat raw. I took step back “No.” the word came out louder this time, clearer. I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran.
“EVAN!” my mother yelled after me.
“NO!” I shouted. To whom, I was not sure. My mom. My dad. Everyone. The world. I ran even faster, leaving my shoes somewhere along the way.
The house wasn’t so far away, so I just kept moving. Never gazing back, never stopping, just like time, it only goes and goes. Time. Time that left my dad behind.
While I ran, I felt as if I could escape everything. Leave it all behind, like a bad dream that could be easily brushed off in the morning. Like a sweater I could take off when summer time came; like a memory I could bury deep inside me. . . but those always came back.
I was running out of breath, but as soon as the house was in sight I commanded my legs to keep moving. I held on to the illusion that my dad was still inside, waiting for me, his chest rising with every breath he took, with a beating heart. It began to pour, the rain letting itself fall upon me with all its force, trying to stop me. I couldn’t let it. I ran faster.
“Dad!” I yelled, as I hurried up inside. “Dad!?” I was completely soaked, dripping and shaking badly. I didn’t know if it was because of the weather or the blend of emotions rattling inside me “Dad. . .?” It came out as a whisper, my strength drained. I went up to my room, stopping in the center of it, not knowing what to do. The realization that no one would answer me, not now, not ever, hit me. Suddenly my own weight was too much, and my legs gave in. I fell to my knees. There was nothing else to do. So I just curled myself into a small ball and allowed myself to fall into unconsciousness. The last thing I heard was the rain furiously falling against the house, making sure I could hear every single drop of water. banging on the rooftop, deep down to my core.
I opened my eyes and saw that I was in my bed, the covers thrown over me. I got up and noticed I still had the black dress on. I headed over to my closet and pulled out some pants and an oversized sweater. Once I changed I didn’t even bother to glance at myself in the mirror as I made my way down to the kitchen where I found my grandmother sitting at the island with a cup of coffee in her hands. She looked at me the moment she heard me coming towards her.
“Hello sweetie,” she said, giving me a small smile.
“Hi Gram,” I said, I went to take a seat on the high chairs opposite her. We sat there for a moment in awkward silence. I took a deep breath and began, “I’m so sorry-“
“Sh. . .” she said, placing one of her long fingers over my mouth “hush now, it’s fine, everything’s ok, nobody will judge or ask, I promise.” She gave me a reassuring smile.
“Thank you.” Was all I could say, infinitely grateful.
Silence fell over us again. After a moment Gram readjusted herself in her seat and cleared her throat “You do know we leave next week, right?” she asked.
Another deep breath “Yeah,”
“Have you started packing yet?”
“No. . . do you know what mom’s going to do with dad’s stuff?”
“No, but I do know that everything is still in his room and that you can take with you whatever you want. You just have to get it before we go.”
“Okay.” I stepped away from the island and went back to my bedroom. The walls were painted a faded light purple, the color I chose when I was eleven years old. I had a lot of pictures all over the place, memories, adventures, moments, my life. . . or what it used to be. My gaze traveled across every inch of it. I felt lost, what the hell was I supposed to pack? Nothing seemed worth keeping anymore. Would I bring the shattered pieces of my heart? Those didn’t need boxes. Would I bring the pictures on the wall, the memories, the light purple walls? That wasn’t real anymore, none of it was. How was I supposed to keep the memories alive? Prove that it was all real when there was no one around me to give me reassurance? It hurt too much to even think about it. And I was too old to keep light purple walls.
I made my way to my parent’s bedroom and opened my dad’s side of the closet. I took out his favorite jacket and placed it over me. It was a deep brown leather jacket. It seemed black, but when you looked closely, you could see that it was dark brown. It was the reason it was my dad’s favorite.
“Knowing the true color of things is an art, kiddo. One we should all practice more often,” he would say when I asked why he liked it so much. “That and the fact that it makes me look younger.” and then a wink.
I breathed in the scent of it. It smelled like that cheap French perfume with the weird name I could not read, much less pronounce. There was a box with twenty-five more in the basement, apparently in the seventies it was the perfume, so dad thought it would be cool to buy a hundred of them. To make sure it lasted for the rest of his life, he would say.
“Dad, that thing is way old. I bet they don’t even make it anymore.” I would argue.
“That’s why it’s so special,” he would say “It’s. . . how do you kids call it this days, retro? Vintage?” and I would laugh at my dad’s attempt to sound cool.
“Never mind dad, you’re just a vintage man.” and then he would laugh.
It smells so much like him. It was unfair. I just lost him, and I would be moving away, leaving all his stuff behind, things that were once a part of him. It felt like I was being forced to forget about him, to leave him behind. What if I forgot? What would happened when I couldn’t tell if all of this had actually happened?. . . My chest ached, and I realized that I would be bringing this pain, this hurt, all the way, until the very end.