“May he rest in peace.”
The truth behind that line is unknown. Who knows what happens after death. A young man sits in the audience, and watches the crowd sheep out through the doors after they finish their finals respects, flocking to a reception of triangle ham and mustard sandwiches and an egg salad of memories. Shuffling sorrow coloured in black and white. He sits, absorbing the raw emotion as the audience exits. Left alone with the casket, he walks up too see the face. The face that people have been weeping over, the face that carried the life of the eulogy, the face that he doesn’t know.
He looks at the wrinkles of an old life well lived. A loved man adorned in his best Sunday suit and makeup lays still and empty. After hearing stories of this man’s past the corpse almost looks lifelike.
A voice comes from behind.
“He finally looks at peace,” red lips under a black veil whisper.
Startled, the young man turns. His eyes meet a middle-aged woman with bright rouge whoring up her face. Even if her appearance isn’t, her heart is sincere.
“He looks beautiful,” the man says softly. He meant it.
“After holding on for so long it was finally his time. This day comes for us all.”
At that, the woman shuffles out of the room. The man remains staring at the body trying to feel something other than the plain facts of what he sees – a painted, suited dead body. That’s the thing with funerals; they make us all realize the true sense of mortality, even if we only do for a moment.
He walks out feeling nothing.
“Gloria was a beautiful woman. She graced us all with her loving soul, and wanted nothing more than…”
The words babble on and sift through his head. How could any one person affect this many people? The church was so full, people had to stand along the back rows, and down the side aisles. Even without knowing Gloria, a person could see the impact she’s made on the lives of those around her, but not him. All he sees is an empty bag of meat waiting to get buried.
After months of sitting in on funerals he fails to feel the emotion, the reason, the celebration. He feels a hole deep inside him, and he thought this would fill it. A hole that wasn’t cored out of him, but that he was born without. Echoes of Gloria’s life slither through his ears, and he thinks back on his memories. His first love that he never loved, his first dog that he watched get ran over, his first time feeling the embrace of a real woman – a prostitute when he was sixteen. All he feels is numbness. It’s clear that this funeral experiment isn’t enough to move him into something, just something normal.
Before the memorial, he stands outside the parlour as people arrive. This time, things are different. This time, he thinks he might feel something. He drags on his cigarette and stares at the cracked black asphalt beneath his feet. Smoke rises above his head like evaporating thoughts.
“So, how do, I mean, how did you know Mickey?”
These words clear the fog of the endless abyss in his head. This is the first time he’s really been engaged and questioned something that doesn’t just require a nod or generic answer. This is something real. Not that people never spoke to him, but this time he feels the urge to give a genuine answer. Obviously, his reply is still going to be a lie.
“I knew him as a child, he grew up around the street from me,” the words hiss through his teeth.
“Oh wow, I can’t believe you made the trip from Maine. Even his family didn’t come in.”
Hearing these words makes his heart pound with the anxiety of bending the truth, but even that is a primal reflex.
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“To be honest, I haven’t seen him since we were kids,” the truth continues to stretch into ugly proportions and feel natural, and real.
“I know this is short notice, but could you say a few words?”
His pupils dilate and his thick blood begins to work its way through his heart and thin as it follows his veins and warms him. He doesn’t know how to answer. Already, it feels right to him; even though he doesn’t know what dishonesties will spill from his lips.
Elation fills both men, one out of joy for remembrance looking for new insight into a human life, the other for the perverse need of empty acceptance. Sheep flock and the service is about to begin. The two men sit next to each other, near the front, waiting for their respective cues.
The friend gets called up and walks to the podium. He says a few unenchanted words that seem to assist with the coping of death. Just the generals, he was a great man, he did many things, he filled all with blah, blah, blah. The friend finishes up, and looks at him to signal it’s his turn.
He stands and walks to the small stage. Each step pushes thoughts into his head. He’s finally feeling something, but that something is panic. He has no idea what he’s going to say, who this man is, or was. He steps up the two pastel carpeted steps and pauses at the coffin. He tries to see who this man was, and what his life meant. He tries to draw on the dead aura that sinks around the body, but fails. To onlookers this is a sweet moment of remembrance and remorse. He turns to the audience. In the moment, he awkwardly begins his speech off center, in front of the coffin.
“When I look upon Mickey, I’m filled with memories. The times we had as boys in Maine, playing on the docks, testing each other, pushing each other to be better. Through grade school we always competed for grades, and girls, but I always fell short. Mickey taught me…” As his mouth dances into shapes of lips he begins to feel that this past is real, that he actually lived it. He gauges the direction he takes on the reaction from the audience, and for once he feels alive, important. “I remember this one time…” Bent truth flows from the faucet that is his mouth.
Words spill out and the lies become a past of their own, a past that even the audience can’t deny because of his passion for Mickey. Praise and ambition weave through the speech. Emotions that he’s never felt come to his head and he explains them to the crowd. They listen to each word. He sees this. He knows he has them hooked. His passion grows from nothing but spits out of his mouth. All the while, he remains standing awkwardly on the stage with no podium to hide him. He relies solely on himself.
More words continue to pour from his mouth and he begins to feel what they truly mean. They flow through his body like human emotion, something he’s never been able to feel. The past he’s creating grows in passion, and life lessons. He peers into the eyes of the audience and tries to enter their collective mind. This is something that he has never been able to feel. He finally feels passion, lying about the carcass behind him.
“He will always be remembered.”
The sheep in the crowd stare in awe and disgust. His passion must’ve dwindled and failed to reach an appropriate denouement. Or maybe, his passion made more blood swell his veins. He feels that they know, they know he’s a liar, they know he didn’t know Mickey, they all know, and no one is willing to pull him off the stage.
He stands with his hands in his pockets and his tie too short for him, confused if he should remain. As I said, his emotions were real. So real, that they made his cock unknowingly swell with hardness. Before unknown eyes he seems to parade with a hefty protrusion bellow his belt.
For minutes, or hours, or days, as it seemed, he danced around the stage unknowingly showcasing his hard dick, sickly erect as he finally feels human.