I just sat there, staring at her for a second as she broke down into hysterical tears. I'm gonna miss him so much, she said. As if the rest of them hadn't already said the same thing about fifty times throughout the night. As I scanned around they were all in various states of crying. Curled up in a chair in the fetal position, sitting on the floor, holding themselves, huddled together on the couch, holding hands. I was leaning against the doorframe, with my hands in my pocket. I shook my head, looking down past my loosened tie and untucked shirt, to my black shoes, shined up special for the occasion.
They kept rattling on, talking about the good times and all the big great things he'd done and how bright his future had been. I just stood there, shaking my head inside even more than the few quick movements that kept jumping out unconsciously. I shuffled my shoe a bit as Karen spoke up, talking through the tears that were making her look sort of like a raccoon. She started recounting his life from birth on, even though she hadn't met him until the 8th grade. I had known him since birth. Well, practically. His mom was my mom's best friend, so we were handed a friendship with our first rattles. But I was fine with that. I didn't care about her being the one to talk. Because, I didn't want to. I was calm and relaxed. That is, right up until she started talking about "what a tragedy this was." Her shoulders started convulsing as she sobbed out again. "It's...just...not...fair."
It was too much for me. I let out a loud laugh and pushed up off the wall, taking a hand out of pocket and scratching the stubble on my chin. I felt all their eyes jerk over to mine, jaws dropping.
"A tragedy? Not fair? A tragedy implies something that was out of control. Not fair...Not fair is that I have to be here listening to you all rattle on like he was a martyr. Like he was taken away by some force of God. He wasn't. He was taken away by some rope and the forces of gravity. Trust me...I'm the one who saw it. None of..."
I hadn't meant to go off, and I stopped short. My heart was pounding and all of a sudden I felt sweat forming on my hairline. I looked around at them, but none of them moved. Not an inch. I probably would've relaxed, except that my eyes fell on Karen again and zoomed in as I saw one last mourning tear slide down her face. Instead, I threw up my hands and stalked out of the room, kicking the screen door open. I heard it slam behind me as I walked down the driveway and started down the street. I felt the misty rain clinging to my face and weighing my shirt down slowly. As I walked, all their comments slid through my head, along with the images I'd been trying to get rid of for four days now. Then the ideas about what I'd missed and the shots I had in my head of us from our 17 years of friendship. They all pushed around, fighting for space in my mind. They crashed into and over each other. T-Ball and the note on his bed. The red lunchbox we both had, the purple color of his face. The tire swing behind my house, the way his feet swung slowly like there was a breeze in his room. Before I had realized it, it was pouring out and I had broken into a hard run. My whole body was tight and focused, unconsciously, on putting one foot in front of the other. The sights and sounds and smells got more and more mixed, pushing into fast forward. I pushed faster, trying to outrun my own thoughts or wear them out.
Out of nowhere, there was a loud crash of thunder. It stopped me in my tracks, jerking my body back to consciousness. I started breathing really hard, leaned over on my knees. My whole body was shaking as I desperately tried to take in air. My head started to
swirl and the darkness in front of my eyes started closing in on me. I dropped to my knees, taking in a deep breath. As I did, a jolt of lightning lit up the sky and the graveyard surrounding me. My eyes flashed in on the one in front of me, knocking the breath I had been trying to get back, right out of my lungs.
I looked down at the fresh mud that my knees were sunk into a bit and quickly stood up. I spun on my heel and took a few steps away. My body slowed up, my brain forcing my muscles to tighten up and turn back. The shakes slowed down and my eyes accustomed themselves to the dark. I pushed my dripping hair back out of my eyes and slid my hands into my pockets. I widened my stance and stood, staring at his grave, unmoving. My eyes narrowed and my teeth closed in together, my jaw muscles jutting out from under my skin. I lifted my chin and turned it up to the side, cracking my neck. I pushed my thumb against each of my fingers in my pocket, snapping them as well, then clenching into a fist. I stared at his named, etched in the cold stone, the rain dripping down out of the engraving. My head started shaking again, gliding back and forth slowly at first, then gaining deliberance.
"You fucking prick." I let the words just fall out into the air and hang there, like the fog that was rolling in.
As the silence lengthened I just stared intensely at his grave. I searched every inch of that stone, waiting for an answer. Waiting for him to call me something back. To challenge me. But it didn't happen.
The rain started falling harder and I blinked my eyes against the water dropping down and clotting in my eyelashes. My hands slowly unclenched and I felt my jaw go slack again. Another flash of light lit up the sky, and I blinked my eyes up to look at the sky as it faded back to darkness. I hung my head back for a few seconds, staring blankly. Then I dropped them back down to the mud in front of me. I watched my feet as the mud that covered them was slowly washed away by the rain.
I gave one final look at his grave and shook my head one last time. Then I turned on the heel of my shiny black shoes and walked back home.