His Funeral was today. Well, his wake rather. It was in his old colonial home on Elm Street, a bought of irony that Paolo would never get. Anyway, it was an odd set up at his house. Family and friends downstairs in the living room, acquaintances and honorable mentions meandering through the hallways clearly more interested in the intricate little floral patterns that adorned the wallpaper than how his family was holding up. The company of the house was split, everyone either legitimately full of sorrow, or completely full of ****. In everyone’s grasp either handkerchiefs or hand grenades it was as if the invitation read “Come see it to believe it!” In the study across the hall a small memorial was set up. Big cards, tons of photos, some flowers, anyone who actually cared stayed there and stared at his once happy face, who knew what it looks like now.
He had died of some sort of overdose, one that destroyed his heart, so he would have looked fine in an open casket. The doctors say it was *******. I don’t believe them. Paolo had his fun in college, ***, *****, sure, but coke? There’s no way. The services weren’t to take place for another two hours, so his family rolled him onto the second floor balcony. It was actually his dad’s decision, something about a “disgrace” and not wanting to look at his face.
Apparently his mom had felt bad letting her dead son chill on the porch for a few hours, so she rolled him across the hallway to his own room him and kind of laid him out on the bed, as if letting her baby boy take his eternal sleep where he’d have had most of his shorter ones.
Picturing him lying up there was the first negative connotation I ever had with the image of him on that bed. He had that kind of headboard that when we started getting at it the bed would hit the wall with each rhythmic movement. Steady and almost tribal as our bodies danced to the ever increasing beat of a talking drum. Our clothes off and our skin glazed with sweat it was like my own personal method for getting high. Now don’t get the impression that our relationship was based purely on a physical connection, we’d been dating for three and a half years, the love was there all right.
We had met in the strangest of ways, through a mutual friend that I was kind of, almost, sort of, but not really having a “thing” with, you know? Cisco was his name. So we were together one day and he, being the adorable spaz that he was, had forgotten that his own birthday party was that same night. He asked if I didn’t mind tagging along, it was a celebration for him and two friends whose birthdays followed his in sequence.
This had been going on for several weeks, and I know we weren’t dating but I still had a feigning interest in the guy. So we arrive to this girl, Cristina’s, house and I noticed this other boy almost immediately. In a backwards cap and pair of boot cut jeans he was jumping around, tossing his arms, right in the middle of reciting some hilarious anecdote to any of his friends who hadn’t heard it yet; even those who had seemed riveted. He was so full of charisma and with such assurance. Besides that he was kind of cute so, though pathetically, I tried flirting with him for the rest of the night; he didn’t really catch on. We left that night without having exchanged more than ten words between each other, I thought I’d never see him again, turns out I was wrong.
“Broadway CAREols. Show others that you care by enjoying a night of with your favorite blend of Christmas ditties and Broadway biddies” And before you ask, Yes, I did come up with that title, I think it was great and it was at the top of each flyer in big red and green letters and if you asked me “If you could do it again…” I would do it the same each and every time don’t judge me.
It was a show I had to direct for a community service project and of all people he played the piano for my show. Only me and several other girls made up the cast, and I knew how easy it was to mistake a positive attitude for flirtation when it comes from a handsome young man. He ran the music over three or four times individually with each cast member before the night of the show, but when Paolo and I worked that night he stopped me and just sang. For me.
Each night after rehearsal I had to give him a ride home, I was a year older and thus had my license a year sooner. I’d never mind allowing myself more time to bask in the glow of his perfectly understated confidence, so I was happy to oblige. Technically Connecticut state imposed a law forbidding new drivers under the age of 18 to be on the roads past 11 at night. My mom, being a government employee, really stressed this one. His house was a solid ten minutes drive from our rehearsal spot, and my mom often warned me to allow myself enough time to get back home before 11. What started as me beginning to drive faster and faster during the trip home ended as a routine each night, where I would finally allow him to step out of my car just as the clock read 11:00 PM.
Our first kiss was in that car, my first uncontrollable breakdown was in the car, hell the first time he told me he loved me was in that car…right at the lip of the driveway. I learned to ride my brakes perfectly to the point where I could park just beyond the edge of the sidewalk yet just before the point where the porch light would flash on, reminding his mother that his son is out past ten on a school night. It was so warm. I’ll never forget the cadence of his laughter as it trailed off, seamlessly merging with that next statement “Anna, I love you”. I could have sworn the porch light went on.
Now I know it may seem like I don’t care for his being dead right now, but the thing is, I did something. I did something really bad.
You see, I had mentioned that he was up in his room, right? Still, stiff, simply waiting to be brought down in a few hours as the catalyst to another round of tears. Now don’t get me wrong, I did my share of crying the night before. He’d been in the hospital for only a few days and when they told us he was dead…God, he was just so young, two years into college, the friend you have who was chasing his dreams down with a brand new pair of sneakers. That kid the whole town knew because of the multitude of silly town functions he attended. He would always insist. Every other weekend was one silly thing or another “Oh you’re gonna love this. Two words – ‘Poetry showdown’. If you can’t take the heat, don’t stay in the kitchen”
The day of the funeral I just had to see him. I snuck up the two floors to his room on the third floor. As I neared his door at the top of that final flight of stairs each creak of the floorboard seemed to resonate through the house, followed by the hollow silence of my stillness. I paused with each step as if stepping in larger spans of time would make what I was doing seem less suspicious, should someone hear me. Upon touching his doorknob I felt an immediate chill. I couldn’t tell whether it was some ghostly feeling of being in the presence of a dead person, or the fact that the thermostat had been turned down to keep his body prime for viewing.
I held my breath as I opened the door, and blinked a couple times when I saw him. He was wearing what everyone else was in downstairs, black tuxedo and a dark tie. I know he would have scowled had he known he was going to be buried in a constricting penguin suit. We had a conversation about it, you know? Out on Academy Hill, right in the middle of a picnic. We were in enough shade that his transition lenses were only half tinted, and when he sat up, it was abruptly. Pushing my head off his chest he kind of leaned in to the cemetery in the distance and pointed out how sad it is that no one really ever gets the chance to choose how they want to spend the rest of eternity dressed in. He would have preferred his puma sneakers, still white after seven months, his striped green and blue socks, his only pair of ripped designer jeans and that express shirt he loved so much because it showed off his natural physique.
I moved closer, inching toward him at first, then quicker as I broke through a place where I just relaxed, and for a moment he wasn’t dead. For a moment he was just sleeping, all ready in his fancy get up simply waiting for me to wake him up. I found myself sitting next to him, my eyes cast downward, half expecting his gaze to meet mine, and while stroking his hair I got an idea. It happened quickly, and I kind of have a problem with acting upon my impulses, it’s something he used to criticize me on that and I never really improved. Without thinking I threw open his drawer and pulled out what I knew he’d have wanted to be dressed in, should he have gotten the chance to create a will concerning his death-wear. As I pulled of his starchy shirt my hand brushed against his chest, chilled as the room was, eerie as nothing else. I finally got him down past his pants and saw, of all abominations, that he was outfitted in a fresh pair of tighty whities. God, it’s as if the funeral home was asking to be haunted by his tormented soul. I found his single pair of silk boxers and reassembled him in the way I knew he’d have wanted to be.
So great, now everyone will think I’m a loon for having desecrated his body. Well what do they know; I’m the only one who ever really knew him! But how the hell would I explain it to his parents when the pallbearers march in and there he is, laying face up in his street clothes?
This wasn’t right. He didn’t belong here, he needed to be somewhere comfortable, someplace he enjoyed, not sitting upstairs in a suit with the lights off and the air blasting. He hated the cold! Certainly he would have hated a hundred people staring at his dead and lifeless shell, and he would, without a doubt, hate being six feet under, pushing daises at the Nichols Road cemetery.
I wrapped my arms around him, and as the building adrenaline made my breaths deepen I inhaled several moments of ecstasy off his clothes that still clung to his musty scent. I lowered him gently to the floor and took care as I dragged him across the carpet to his door. After fumbling, for what felt like several minutes, on his door handle I got him onto the awning introducing the stairs. I even made it down the first flight of stairs without freezing up at the tiniest creak when I heard someone coming my way. ******, they must need to use the bathroom, why couldn’t they just use the one downstairs like any normal person? Without hesitation I throw open up the window near bottom of the stairs, heaving myself and him, sending us tumbling onto the garage roof. Ignoring my probable bruises I spring up and slam the window behind me while taking special care to hide us both as far away from the bathroom window as possible.
Sitting up there, my heart racing, I felt his hand in mine and it was probably because my palms had gone clammy but I swear for a span of time he was alive again. I closed my eyes and felt the breeze in my hair and was transported to a place where I spent a single moment in each day we ever shared. Each beach side sandcastle, each afternoon spent cloud gazing, those same afternoons turning into evenings of star gazing, each and every night spent utterly and irrevocably lost with this silly boy that chose to love me.
I was torn from my oasis as I heard the bathroom’s occupant exit and continue downstairs. Knowing that my van was parked on the other side of the street I pushed his body as close to the edge of the roof as I could without his falling off and let him be. I hopped back inside and ran downstairs, but not before flying through the doors of the memorial and interrupting his mothers eulogy. In an act of sheer brilliance I mustered a few tears and tore out the back door. Everyone figured I was just so taken away by his death that I couldn’t stand to be there anymore. Who knew anxiety could be mistook for remorse so easily?
I ran down the driveway, losing the grace I had composed in my dress in high heels the moment I slammed that door. I jumped into Emmet, my van, because only crazy people drive around in un-named vehicles.
I pulled out of my spot, nearly ruining the paint job on both my and his Uncle Ed’s car. I flew my trunk door open and set the third row down, the general idea being his landing securely in my back seat. I reversed up the driveway with the precision of a surgeon and the speed of a leopard right back to the edge of the garage where I had tossed his body. I jumped out of my car nearly forgetting to put it into park before I shut off the engine. I barely got halfway around my car before becoming transfixed on his hand, hanging off the gutter as if reaching for mine to grab hold and pull him to sweet salvation. I jumped up a few times, unsuccessfully before I took off my shoes and got a good running start. I flew up, grabbed his arm and ****** towards the car in a sideways downward motion. He nearly cracked his head on the pavement coming down, he would have too if it wasn’t for my body breaking his fall. I got up, too distracted by the sheer volume of my own heart to realize the pain I felt. I shoved him into my back seat, slammed the trunk, stumbled into the car, stuck it in reverse and stepped on gas without even putting my shoes back on.
I told you I had done something bad.
This is a first draft, please, I welcome your critiques.