A Day Inward

30 Sep


A Day Inward


            He turned her chair so that the big mirror reflected the minor miracle performed. The coiffeur smiled and nodded, pleased at his own efforts. She looked pleased as well, ready to be poised and vicious in the face of death; we had a funeral to get to.

            Our dress for funerals was now one of formality; the same pungent slickness each time, as if it were a business transaction, as though we were getting ready for some court appearance sprinkled into a labilizing dissoluteness – rid of the tattered habiliment that might suit us better for the beloved trivialities of our day to day, sanguine and softer each time; full of labial, loud carousal and time for quiet, tender and each second an intimation of chemical, literary, architectural inseparableness. She wore a long dark skirt and a blouse the color of a rustic brown too ancient for me to understand. I stuck to the conservative black on black ensemble – Johnny was my friend, after all, and he would have respected the choice to go plain and unaffected.

            America devours its young like a stoned Poseidon – and a lot of my friends are way down, below where Jonah was digested. The names blur; the headstones start repeating Ecclesiastes and Dickens and her dialogues between the spirit and the dust and each farewell seems crowded. Each one gets in the way.

            Her face looked radiant and anguished and fair and eternal, the lines of her profile made inward slopes into the lines of her neck – she resembled a black and white starlet from the silent era, her physiognomy sculpted in aging celluloid, cast in shadow. Colleen Moore, maybe.

            We were late. As always we must be. But these things never started on time anyhow, too many people can’t bear it and start drinking early which causes things to move slow. I stopped by the bar as well, and got us a couple of drinks. She was fidgeting, looking around nervously at people she didn’t know. I introduced her to John’s parents. Some other high school friends soon came along to shake hands tragically and then squeal nostalgically about those times spent smoking pot outside of school and acid trips during biology class and the punk band we started before the drugs turned practice sessions into a languished gray funk where we’d only manage to remain half awake and half alive strumming bar chords dissonantly around twinkling girls who wanted to vamp around those who were only half existing and romanticized the poetic mediocrity of that kind of scene while we chased around them as though they really were fireflies in some youth we’d later cherish.

            I was half spun after the third drink, and I saw her sitting on the little divan in front of the large door leading into a little garden outside of the funeral home. She was looking at the dead fountain, short streams of superfluous water have outrun their necessity, creating a sick coloring, the shape of creeping fingers, of festered charcoal across the granite. She looked wonderful and light. I sat by her and wondered whether it would soon be time to leave.

            We had plenty to do today and not much reason to do it all. 

            I really liked this new shorted cut. Her hair asked me to run my hand over it, to kiss her forehead under the locks that slumped like Brooklyn awnings. She smiled. I took her hand and we looked at the fountain together, then looked at the people walking about, from group to group, condolence to condolence, a heartfelt grasp of a shoulder, a fond memory shared, a rough anecdote rushed, uttered for a bit of levity and to crisp the bourbon served too warm as disincentive of forgetting – I knew she liked them, I could tell by her face. She thought that that was how they were like always. Warm.

            I enjoyed watching her this way. Grieving without knowing why, or who for. Intimate and snug. I took a drink and watched her and watched the clock until a few hands passed and some bread was broken and some people cried and some people really felt it and she still looked wonderful and light and it hadn’t caused her too much weight and I was glad and we left with some of the last few and she hugged John’s mother and I shook hands with his father and they nodded with half-smiles because they haven’t been cued as to what to do when the last guests are leaving. She grabbed my hand as I grasped the doorknob and we were gone, back out into it, back with the living, or some of them, but we were together, the city seeming new each time, like a reconciliation with an apologetic fairytale.


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