“Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, we are gathered here today to say our farewell to the dearly departed-“
You hold your jaw closed tightly in order to stifle a yawn and the rushing sound in your ears makes the priest’s voice sound like a badly-tuned radio. You let your mind wander and stop listening to him. You’ve never been to a church before. You never thought that a funeral would be your first time attending.
You watch the ladies in the front row, dressed in black, like evil witches in their lace and wraps and drapes, their fancy shoes scraping against the stone floor whenever they move. You wonder whether they will miss him. He never complained much about them, his ladies, but whenever he talked about them he looked at their pictures with regret and his lips would lose their perpetual upturned points.
You remember him the way you first met him. He seemed so much younger than you then. Hard to believe that he was only a few years your junior. You were both taking flying lessons at the airport. Zippy little planes, they were. You had to learn how to turn the engine off, to let the plane begin to swirl down-down-down-down-down, as if it was going to crash. It is a common misconception that planes just fall from the sky, like they do in cartoons. They don’t – the way the wings are built, the wings catch the air, the thermals or something, and so planes always go in spiraling loops on the way down. It was the scariest thing you’d ever done, turning off that engine. You both met at the edge of the vandalized playground later that week, and you talked about that. About how scary it was. That was the first time you realized he wasn’t a pukey little high school kid. You thought he may have some brains on him and you deigned to speak to him. You were such a putz when you were in college.
It’s such a laugh, thinking of those flying lessons now, when you haven’t navigated a plane for forty years and your old friend is lying dead in a coffin in front of you. It’s ridiculous on another level, too – as if anyone could get flying lessons so easily now. You bet that just to get to the airstrip, now, if anyone could even afford to get flying lessons, you’d need to take your damn shoes off and scan your bag. You think of how you used to pay for airfare on the plane itself. No passports or IDs or anything. How the world changes.
One of the ladies is talking about how her uncle was such a good man, a noble man, and you wish you could get up and shout “Objection, your honor!” But this isn’t court, it’s church. The dead man in the coffin would have loved the joke, though. He wasn’t noble, and while sure, he was good in his own fashion, he would have been horrified to have been described that way.
The service is a blur. You wonder at one point whether you’ve fallen asleep. Your joints hurt on the wooden benches, and you wish you hadn’t agreed to be one of the pallbearers. You want to curse at him, but you know that people will look at you strangely if you do. It isn’t fair. When you die, you think, you’ll stipulate in your will that your funeral is to be strictly casual dress and that people aren’t allowed to be all fake-sad like this. If they’re sad, that’s fine, but if they want to shout at you and curse you out, that’s fine too. You’d prefer that, really. Heck, there are coffins that come with sound-systems today, people could have a party at your expense. They could choose the playlist you’ll listen to for all eternity. You wish he were around to laugh about that with you. You could have told him that you think your kids will choose to make you listen to their awful youtube teen stars for all eternity, just to get back at you for making fun of them.
The coffin is heavy, heavier than you expect. You tell him, silently, telepathically maybe, that he needed to go on a diet, and that death will probably help him lose weight real quickly. You wonder if you can feel him laughing somewhere but then you realize that it’s your own shoulders, heaving.
4 thoughts on “Heave ho”
Beautiful. That final image of the narrator with heaving shoulders over the coffin…perfection!
You need to write books. Lots of books. I hope you know how good you are. Seriously.
Oh wow, love it, Ilana. Very visceral. Love the irreverence (and honesty) of the MC’s thoughts. And yeah, it is crazy how much flying has changed in just the past decade! =\
3 posts I read of yours. Awe.struck. As The Farris Family says, write books!