I stood in line; hands folded politely, eyes cast down. Not really out of respect, as they should have been but more to avoid betraying my growing frustration at all this. I should be devastated, I know. Honestly, something like this should have me curled up in a corner somewhere, either wailing hysterically or staring at the wall like a vegetable. Instead, I really just cant wait to get out of this place. The smell of it, the heat, and all these people, crammed shoulder to shoulder, some in tears, others just downtrodden. Its clawing at my nerves. I cant leave yet, of course, though my patience only shortens with the line. I have to at least pay my respects, see his face one last time.
Dear god, it hits me with the full weight of realization. His face
Ill have to see his face. My ire is gone. Very suddenly I find myself becoming tense, verging on panicked.
Another mourner crosses himself and steps out of line, so the rest of us step forward. I keep my eyes trained on the floor, silently railing at the woman in front of me, or more truthfully at the back of her feet, demanding that they do not move any further. Yet they do, as another person finishes paying respect. Bastards, I think.
I make the mistake of flicking my eyes upwards. My intent was just to see how many people were left in front of us, but in my stupidity I just barely catch a glimpse of his nose. With an audible exhalation I hammer my eyes into the floor again. The man behind me gently puts his hand on my shoulder for a moment, but I dont dare to look at him.
Another step forward now. Only two more people in front of me: a man, and the woman with the traitorous feet. My heart is beating so hard Im sure the man behind me must hear it. My ears are filled with the pounding of my blood, and my mouth, rather than drying, is watering voraciously, forcing me to swallow convulsively. I try to pull some smattering of rationality back into my being, but the sudden crying of a baby shatters any chance of sanity.
I cant face him, I cant. I try to step out of line, but my feet wont move. Im trapped. Full panic finally sets in, and I know I must be trembling visibly by this point. The floor stares back laconically. I silently pray, begging the carpet to open up and swallow me, destroy me before its really too late. I silently plead with the kind man behind me to knife me in the kidney, or the treacherous shoes to mutiny. The shoes are gone. Wait
Everything freezes. Everything. The air doesnt move, my blood doesnt run, even the baby is silenced by sheer gravity as I stair into the lid of his coffin. I can see him in my peripheral vision, not clearly, but I see him. With everything inside of me I strain against my eyes as they descend so slowly. My vision centers on his hands, folded peacefully. Something is horribly wrong with me. My eyes crawl across his figure, and finally his face comes into focus. There is no escaping him now. His face. That face. My breathing hitches. Im reduced to short, ragged gasps for breath. My vision blurs as my world fills with water. I swear that if there is any mercy in the universe, the hot water in my eyes will stay just there. Please. Please. Please.
There is to be no grace for me, as that first white hot tear scorches a path down my cheek, I know Ive lost everything. And so I stand there, eyes locked on his face, hands at my side, clenched into fists so tightly theres no blood left in them, searing hot tears rolling down my face carving scars deeper and deeper into me. I manage to stay standing, and I dont actually cry out, but Im trapped in this baleful reverie. I cant move myself away; I cant even take my burning eyes off his face.
And then hes there, propped up beside me, staring down into my face, the ceiling fan spinning behind his head, like a whirling halo.