Minutes become hours, time moves unhurried by recent events. Then a voice erupts in the darkness.
 “Where am I? Hello?” sigh, “Anyone there? You’d figure there would be a light.” I hear the sound of soft shuffling of soles in the distance. “Who’s that? I can’t see in all this damn darkness!” My groan echoes through the dark.  “Hello? What’s that? Am I talking to myself?” Always talking to myself… come on I can’t be alone? Can I? Well that just seems unfair. Jerks! Leaving me here alone in the dark.
 “Hey what’s that! -- Yes! I see something! It’s… what is it… It looks like a rag doll.”
I scrunch up my eyes so I can see better, the image slowly comes into focus as if a magnifying glass is aiding my gaze. Gradually I am able to make out an image; it reminds me of a frosted painting. It looks like a man in his 3rd decade close to his 4th, long and lean. His head hangs low, hanging there, as if he is staring at his shoes. His dark hair streaked with age. He isn’t a good dresser at all: sweat pants and stained shirt. I’m sure if I moved closer he would reek as well. Wait why can’t I get closer? I throw my body forward, but can’t get any closer. All I can do is look at this obscure painting.
“Arg, what the hell am I looking at? Why is this all I can see! I can’t even see me, but I can see this idiot!” I look at his face again, and this time it seems familiar, very familiar. A chill runs through my body. “This fool, this slob, this pathetic excuse for a man, it can’t be true!”
I’m here, but not here. I watch them cry and console, nothing I can do now but watch. I watch the sky as the clouds replace the sun. I watch as the trees wave back and forth in the wind. I watch as everyone drifts left and right. I’ve been watching for days now.  I watch as Mitch ambles by without a glance. His shaggy chestnut hair combed neatly behind his ears, wearing a black suit that hangs off his body.  He’s almost a man, plenty of room left though. “Go figure, it’s rainy, hey Mitch? It always seems to rain on days like this.” He continues on, his head hung low, like his father. So young, so much life left.
Stacey is sitting alone on a pale blue sofa with faded roses. Her mahogany hair is clipped back and she’s wearing a black baby doll dress and a grey sweater, holding her tattered white teddy. The huge sofa seems to make her even smaller than her already slim figure. I glide closer to Stacey. She clings to her broken bear. All I hear is faint whimpers that tremble through her body. I reach to stroke her hair but she bends over just in time to hold her heart in. “It’s gonna be okay, don’t worry.” I feel no confidence in my words. Poor girl.
I was never good with tears. I was raised not to cry and never to console. I am a blister on the heart. I know, I’ll get Jen. She’ll know how to help the kids. I search for her long auburn curls in the crowd, I find her embraced in her father’s arms. She’s wearing a sleek ebony dress that hugs her body. I move over and gaze at her face. For an instant, she reminds me of a forlorn mime. Then I remember my task, “Jen, the kids need you. Jen, they need you.” She buries her face into her father’s chest and ignores my plea. “Please Jen.” After several minutes Jen finally goes to the children. They huddle together and hold each other snug while I watch on from the distance. “Good girl Jen, you’ll do great.”
When I see they aren’t sitting on the rustic sofa anymore, I realize I’ve been lost in thought. They probably moved into the chapel. I follow the worn path to find them. The chapel is silent as I enter. They didn’t have a wake, decided it would be too upsetting on the children. I look around the room; just over fifty people are here. More than I was expecting. In the front I see a dark pine coffin; the coffin is closed but surrounded by an assortment half a dozen white lilies and carnations bouquets. A podium with a microphone is at the front for speakers. I spot Jen and the kids near the front. People are scattered amongst the pews finding a spot where they feel safe, staking their claim with purses and jackets. I take my place in the back.
 I stare at the white walls and notice the figures in the glass, frozen still. A noise breaks my gaze; it feels like the first sound I’ve heard in days.
I turn my eyes to the front where Pastor Clark is addressing the small gathering. I hear him say, “This is not an easy time for anyone, family or friends. Today we grieve the death of Reid Ian Parker, a son, a husband and a father. This time will be…difficult. As you know Reid did not leave us by traditional means, he took his own life this fall. Perhaps no one will ever understand his reasons. We must not try, we cannot understand why, but we can accept Reid’s fate and move on, this is our best option. Some may lay blame, but there is to be no blame. There will be many questions that will go unanswered. Some people become overwhelmed with life, sometimes people can help them and sadly some don’t want help. Reid’s life was shortened here on earth. Thankfully he left us wonderful treasures, Mitchell and Stacey, two very wonderful and beautiful souls indeed. I will now lead us in a moment of silence for Reid.” Everyone bows their heads except me. My eyes scan the room. Jen clings to her children as if that’s all that holds her together. I glance around the room again. Mrs. Parker is crumpled like an old tissue paper, shaking between sobs, while Mr. Parker tries to smooth her creases. She appears to be taking her son’s death very hard. I feel a dull ache in my heart.
 The silence never really comes, between the whimpering, weeping and whispers, grief sets in and cries misery.
Pastor Clark signals the moment is over. It’s now time for family and friends to speak of their beloved memories of the deceased. Pastor Clark summons Mr. Parker to the front.  His lean frame moves steadily to the podium, taking hold of the sides of the stand to steady himself. The few wisps of white hair combed to his will. He stares out into the crowd, lips pressed together as if assessing everyone. His eyes pass me by without a single notice and finally coming to rest on Mrs. Parker who has managed to calm herself somewhat. With a slight nod, Mr. Parker begins.
“My son… Was just that, my son! Me and the Missus will miss him something fierce, but that ain’t gonna change what has happened. A lot of folk know he was my only son, but he wasn’t my only child. Thank God, I got a few with some sense. Also, he did leave me with a fine grandson who I am very proud of. He left me with a strong man to carry on the family name. So, well that’s what I got to be thankful for. Might seem odd to be thankful at a time like this but this isn’t my first death and it won’t be my last. When you get up in your years you learn to understand this is how life is at times and all you can do is go on living.” He looks at Jen for a few moments; I could hear his inhale of breath across the room. “Even though this just ain’t right, there is no one to blame, it happens, it… hurts. It hurts.” I wait for him to finish his speech, but he gallantly goes to Stacey’s side and wraps his arm around her small shoulders. I can barely see her petite head tremble when she leans her body into her grandfather.
Pastor Clark gets up in front of the crowd once more then asks if anyone else would like to speak. No one offers right away. They sit and turn to each other. I can read pleading in their eyes; no one really wants to speak. They don’t know what to say, only a few brave souls will stand up today and speak their minds. I wait and wait, a few minutes pass, the sound of stifled snivels drifts through the room. Finally, Mark gathers himself and walks to the front of the room. He makes the podium look small next to his large frame. His hair is ruffled like a perturbed bird and dark circles form beneath his eyes. Focus is now on Mark.
“Well I am… I was…Reid’s best friend. We were friends for over 20 years. We worked together for a long time too; he was a damn fine carpenter. He could build anything! Made first-rate benches, tables, cabinets, desks, bars, decks, you name it he could do it! We spent many hours designing and crafting together.” I watch as Mark’s eyes glaze over. He’s not even speaking to us anymore it seems, he’s in his own place. “There was this one customer who was so picky, and had to have everything her way. If it wasn’t top notch, or the finest timber, she wasn’t happy. She was a tough nut. Reid had her figured though; he created a great design for her. He made a simple bureau out of white oak, gold trim and a large mirror so she could admire herself.  Funny too, I don’t think she even realized he over charged her, she was just so happy someone understood her. I guess that’s what makes me sad. I don’t know if anyone knew what would have suited Reid. What piece of furniture that would have embodied his personality. If I were to make him anything now, well it would be a red cedar hope chest.” Mark nods, approving of his choice. “He was there when I needed him and always gave me hope when I was down. I sometimes wonder if we were all more supportive then maybe things could have been different.” I see a tear is roll down the big softy’s cheek, he’s always been a gentle soul. Mark continues after a brief pause, “I’m sure--we will all miss him. I know, I will. He was my best friend, no one better. Best friend…yep. Bye good buddy.” I watch as Mark slowly goes back to his wife and leans into her arms. My bet is he’s crying, he’s always been gentle. A slight warmth stirs within my heart.
Now without hesitation several other friends in the crowd get up, all with stories of how they have known Reid a while. How swell of a guy he was, everyone omits how he died, glosses it over like it never happened. Is this how they deal? By ignoring the truth? I watch each one get up and speak as if Reid was their best friend. I feel nothing towards them; they’re just here for sympathy. I shake my head, fake tears; some even share fake stories which are obvious to anyone who really knew Reid. Really knew him. After a parade of false friends, I look and see Jen’s curls shake. Good girl, she knows.
Jen’s long auburn curls sway as she marches to the front. Her eyes alight with flame. This is what I have been waiting for, what does Jen have to say? Jen’s green eyes were rimmed red.  She needs to speak, she clears her throat, “Reid was my husband. You can all say nice things about him till you go blue, but the truth is, he could be a jerk. However, when I come home I expect to see him sitting in his chair drinking a beer, or in the shop either working on the bench, or drinking a beer with Mark in the garage.” Her body begins to quiver. “Now when I walk into the house it feels empty, my bed feels empty. I still don’t understand why he had to do this. Fin…finding him still haunts me. I still can’t go in the garage. I thought I knew him. I knew he was depressed for a while, it wasn’t easy for us. I just wish he would have talked to me more.” I watch tears fall to the ground. “I wasn’t there enough for him. Maybe if I would have taken his depression more serious this wouldn’t have happened. I saw him struggle, and this recession hit him hard when he lost the business. I sometimes blame myself for him being so upset. I didn’t know he was that low.” Her pale skin turns ruddy. “I told him more than once he needed to find a job soon or I would leave him. I shouldn’t have ever said that. I wouldn’t have left. We were having issues as a family, but I need him back. I can’t do it alone. I don’t want to do this alone. Why’d he leave us?” Her fire is washed over by waves of tears. “I—could have been better—I should have, maybe…” Her body collapses to the floor, she begins rocking, rocking back and forward, forward and back. Her curls cover her face while she hugs her knees. The room is quiet until Mark comes then half carries Jen back to Mitch and Stacey, good ol’ Mark. My heart stings to see the once fiery and confident Jennifer Parker reduced to a weeping mass.
After consoling their mother for a few minutes, Mitch takes Stacey’s hand, leading her to the front. He is slowly becoming a man with no fear and no reserve, reminding me of a young Reid. “Hi, I’m Mitch, this is my kid sister Stacey.” I catch the hand squeeze Stacey gives her brother. He looks down at his tiny sister, a decade apart but closer than ever. With a small nod he continues, “We love our Dad. I know we didn’t often see eye to eye, we argued on almost everything. But now I wish I would have spent more time with him, learned more about him…maybe that would have made him happy... I want to tell him I’m sor.” Stacey squeaks in, “I want him back! Please! I said the magic word! Can I please have my Daddy back now? Pretty please! Please!” Tears explode down her delicate cheeks. The six year old’s words pierce my heart like a dagger.
My heart erupts from its frozen shell. I shout at the top of my lungs, “I’m sorry my loves, I’m sorry!” No one even turns.  “I’m sorry, Daddy loves you!” Again, no one hears me call out. My face begins to burn with remorse. I wait for the warm water to fall from my eyes, but my release never comes. I just continue to burn within.
kuriouskitten kuriouskitten
22-25, F
May 10, 2012