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She Pees Standing
Today, I went to a funeral for a friend. I walked up to Jon’s seat solemnly and gave him a hug and then said a prayer by the coffin. The plaque read Mr. Mark Timmons. I had never met the deceased, yet I cried buckets; in thirty minutes, I consumed a tissue box, was handed a bottle of water, and called Mr. Timmons by the staff. Braviak & Sons Funeral Home, privately owned. 49 Whippany Road. Whippany, New Jersey. I was expecting a Braviak, but instead, the Celebrant was Michael Connors. Their motto is “The Difference is in the Details.” Which was the unnecessary detail?
I met her at the funeral. When I first walked in, heads turned, an unusual amount, and instantly the girls started conversing. I still don’t know if that treatment was also given to others, but I knew I was the topic of the gossip. Good or bad. I saw her then—radiant curtains of black hair enshrouding the most perfect porcelain face. Her eyes were sad. Undoubtedly a relative. Jon’s mother grabbed her left arm and jerked her back, so that she may dutifully face the front, as a good girl ought. As I gazed wistfully at the equally perfect back of her head, the gossipers seemed to have concluded that I was no ogre, and smiled at my still form in the mouth of the square door. Wide enough for a coffin to exit to parade in the reception to the cemetery.
I grabbed a seat next to other, stoic friends. I felt no attachment to the scene, no overwhelming emotion to make me keel or sniffle. I had never met the deceased. My brief surveillance revealed that only two of the three sons that Jon had described for me were present, along with the widow. The last son must have been extraordinarily busy indeed, to miss his father’s funeral. But such is life. In the hallway my mother and five other parents attempted to discuss their strategy for approaching the wake. To them it was a business meeting. I recall my mother saying, in Chinese, that their obligation was just to show their face briefly. She approached Mrs. Timmons with a hug and conversed shortly and gave her condolences, to the two sons who stood to greet her, Jon and Alan. In ten minutes she had left. I stayed.
The first hour felt like a lifetime. There was no pleasant conversation; it was a funeral, after all, so my mind wandered freely and my gaze endlessly drifted towards the back of her head. The young mourner towards the front whose name I did not know captivated my imagination and set fire to my pheromones. Another unrequited attraction to be briefly lived, based off assumptions and whims, shallow to the bone. The soft music started to play and I startled noticeably.
When the eulogies were read, my thin emotional shield broke. I don’t think I cried for Mark as much as I cried for Jon. I don’t know why I cried for Jon, since I don’t know Jon as well as I would like. Nor did I start crying when Jon spoke, because by then the precipitation was already running freely. Instead, I took to heart Alan’s words, though I had up to then never spoken to Alan; Jon’s older brother was a horrible orator who spoke from his heart. Jon’s older brother had looked through thousands of old photographs while writing his speech. Jon’s older brother had choked when said, “Daddy I love—no, we love you.” I choked too. Sixteen and twenty-seven years old and they are fatherless.
He had died on Wednesday. They told me that it was a gruesome crash. Mark’s body was lucky to come away relatively intact, with most of the damage below the chest. A SUV had crashed into the Timmons’s Jeep; the driver had been drunk, with his wife and daughter strapped into the back seat. They were speeding down the wrong direction on the highway, just when Mark was coming home from work. The SUV crashed into the Jeep on the passenger side. The driver immediately died. His wife crawled from the burning wreckage with scratches and bruises, yet miraculously unharmed, compared to the chaos around her. Jon told me earlier that when the police and firefighters came, they found the woman cradling her daughter’s decapitated head on the side of the highway, singing softly. The girl was seven years old, her small frame too short in length for the seatbelt to stretch over her shoulders. Instead, it had gone right over her neck. Twenty-four minutes after the crash, an ambulance roared towards the hospital with the injured. Aboard, the woman was still clutching her baby’s head. Humming a lullaby.
The porcelain doll I found enchanting stood up after some Chinese letters from Mark’s siblings. I hadn’t expected for her to add additional weight to the mounting pressure in my head. I looked around me and surveyed the dry faces in my immediate area. I must have been quite a sight; six rows back from the front and I was the only one crying who wasn’t in the first row. Like a fish out of water, a cousin exiled from the pack. But I was neither. I was no Timmons. I had never met the deceased.
The confusion in my brain acted like a filter for all extraneous noise. There were creaks, mutters, stutters, pauses, and whispers that permeated the air, even during the long line of eulogies from brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends. Yet when she spoke, my attention was fixed, fixated on who must be a Miss Timmons.
“My father, he loved his two sons. He loved them so dearly and well. But he had always wanted a daughter, so when a year after, a girl was born, he was overjoyed.”
I blew my nose, slightly, in the brief hiatus that followed her opening line. I was surprised, to be honest; father? I never knew Jon had a sister. But there she was, wearing the most beautiful black dress, with ornate cuts lining the sleeves to create the illusion of lace. A small golden locket dangled from a thin strand of gold that encircled her neck.
“Dad. There’s just one thing though. No one’s ever told you.”
I saw her mother move stiffly towards the podium, with both arms outstretched, as if to give her a comforting hug in such a difficult time. My first impression of the older woman briefly flickered and threatened to change.
“But, Dad, you see: I pee standing.”
Her mother had gotten to the podium by then and embraced her daughter, muffling whatever else she might have said with her shoulder. The young girl’s pink eyes began to water and soon little drops of salt played percussion upon her mother’s shoulder. I sized up the petite form at the head of the room, right by the open casket, and decided she was must have been lying. She had to be lying.
Later, I approached Jon and gave him one last hug before the reception to the cemetery, hiding the empty tissue box behind my back. There was no way he had seen me from the front row, and yet, he seemed to know everything that had transgressed in the back. When I asked, he told me exactly why, grasping the damp sleeves of my blazer.
“Because, my friend, you smell like the sea.”