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Dead Like Me
I was on my way home when I died. It wasn’t big or dramatic and probably didn’t even make it on the evening news. No, “Adeline Carrasco was killed today on her way home from school” Nothing. I just died. There came a point after my untimely death after 16 years when I had to make a choice. Would I want to watch my funeral? I chose to watch. God, I’m stupid.
It was held at the county church. That about pulverized me, because no one in my family has ever been religious or even been to that church. The Caplan County Church didn’t really look like a church from the outside; in fact it didn’t really look like anything on account of the think vines that covered it from steeple to front step. On the inside, it was filled with different coloured light that poured through the somehow visible stained glass windows that were roped with vines. The floor was dark wood that had been polished so thoroughly that the beige walls and family pews reflected off it. Caplan County is so old, and small that everyone knows everyone at least by their surname, and newcomers are looked at like alien species.
The church was completely empty aside from me of course. The dead me and the aliv-, new me I guess. I stood at the back of the church, near the big black doors that had an ominous feeling and gave you chills just by looking at them. My guide had told me that I would be, ‘gone’. Not completely sure what this means, but okay. Guide said that the living couldn’t hear me or see me but if I got angry and whacked them in the face, they could feel it. Good.
I stepped forward towards the front of the church and stepped softly down the aisle, my footsteps echoing with every tantalizing step I took towards my coffin. How curious, I thought, that just last month a happy bride, very much alive, bride walked up this exact same path, and now a deceased 16-year-old girl is taking the same steps she did. I stood behind my closed coffin and looked out at the rows of pews. For a church, it’s very small, just big enough to seat the 410 citizens of Caplan County inside.
As I walked around and pondered the church, one of the big, ancient doors creaked open, just big enough for a pair of galoshes to squeeze inside, followed by a freshly tailored suit and a gently balding head. So I suppose the first guest had arrived a bit early for the late Adeline Alessandra Carrasco’s funeral.
People have told me I’m an observant girl, I’m always looking at people and noticing everything from their bald spot to the gum on the bottom of their boots. I ducked down under a table and my heart raced as I wondered if the man caught a glimpse of me. I am dead after all, and – wait. I’m dead. He can’t see me. “Oh.” I said out loud, loving the freedom to say whatever I wanted. I stood up. Only, I forgot to get out from under the table. Pausing only to employ some of my brother’s choice swear words, I crawled awkwardly out from under the table and approached the man. He attempted to lock the door behind him for several minutes, but gave up. The man whirled around with such haste that I (who was standing right behind him), jumped and fell back. He strut down the aisle so quickly that I was forced to do a sort of backwards crawl into one of the aisles so he wouldn’t step on me. The man sat down at the first pew, straight backed and proper. He stayed there for a long, long time.
Be the time he moved again, everyone had arrived for my funeral. MY FUNERAL. Too weird. They were all chatting casually but there was a certain gloom set over the room. I looked out into the crowd at the many faces I recognized and some I didn’t. My cousins and neighbors. My friends and teachers. My family. The man stepped up to my coffin, which he opened. I screamed out loud. Whoever dresses dead people for a funeral should be shot. What kind of human being puts a black dress with orange shoes? I can’t believe dead me is wearing THAT. The man picked up my hand. “Addie?” he whispered. Flashbacks played back in my head, uncontrollable. My name being called across the playground, from the kitchen, in a hug, pulled tight by a man who I’ve known forever. Only one person has ever called me Addie. “Dad?” I whispered in return.
My heart raced harder that it ever has. This is my dad. My daddy. John James Carrasco. JJ. Dad. I haven’t seen him in like, seven years. He randomly disappeared off the face of the earth, so my older brother who’s 26, and was able to get custody of me. Our mom died when we were little. I guess I missed my dad. But I was mad at him for a long time.
“Addie?” he said, slightly more audible this time. “I’m sorry Addie. I always loved you baby girl.” He pulled a small booklet out of his pocket and read out loud, just so him, me and dead me could hear him. “I realize there’s a lot of unanswered questions” he read, “but I want you to know I thought about you everyday. All the time. I want you to know that I didn’t leave by choice. I can’t tell you why, there might be someone listening.” My heart sank like a rock. “But I can say this. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t regret it. I love you so much Pickle.” That’s my special nickname. It’s certainly been a while. “Remember when I used to call you Pickle, Addie?” He asked hopefully, as if he thought I could answer.
“Yes.” I said, even though I knew he couldn’t hear me.
“I hope so.” I moved closer to my dad. “I know that nothing I say can make you forgive me, but Ad, I’m so sorry beautiful.”
“I forgive you.” I whispered, as if I could converse with him in out whispered.
“Remember,” He went on, “when I used to sing to you? Remember our song?”
“Imagine there's no heaven
Wonder you can
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...” My dad sang, same as he did when I was little.
“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...” I sang back, wondering if somehow, on a
universal level, he’s listening. Or at least imagining 7-year-old me, singing John Lennon back to him. That was always our thing. The Beatles. It hurts to listen to them now. I miss my Daddy.
“Addie, I’m going to let someone else talk to you. But I love you Beautiful.” My Dad said through the thick tears that rolled down his bearded cheeks. My own tears held me at my position standing next to myself. I stood there for quite a while, what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes. Tears streaming down my cheeks, flowing freely from my brown eyes and tangling my long blond straight hair. I cried freely, at my own funeral. I closed me eyes and lost myself in my own thoughts.
When I opened them again, my brother Parker was leaning over me, his hand on my cheek. Flashbacks started again. Playing soccer with Parker at age three, kissing my boyfriend on the front steps and getting caught by him. The day dad left, how he took me in, and took custody of me.
“I know you wouldn’t expect me to be here.” He slurred, obviously drunk. That’s the thing about my brother, he drinks his sorrows away, not with grape juice though.
“But I wanted to come.” He continued drunkenly. “Adeline, you’re my best friend. Even though I’m bigger I always looked up to you, like you were my big brother.” He laughed that booming laugh of his. “I know you feel like you’re in my gratitude, but really I’m in yours. You helped me stay strong after Dad left. And when Mom died, I had to be strong for my new baby sister. Adeline Alessandra Carrasco,” he slurred, “you’re my, Parker Peter Carassco’s biggest hero.”
I broke. I sobbed. So did Parker. He cried harder than ever. So did I. I wanted to hold him, to hug him, to let him know I’m there. But I can’t. His hand reached out wobbly and came to rest on my stomach. Flashbacks returned, this time not so pleasant. The countless times he’d come home drunk, and me settling him on the couch, lying on his side, so he wouldn’t choke. The girls he’d brought home after a night out, and me ignoring the sounds that echoed from around the house. Being on my own for a week when I was 10. Let go. I willed him. Take your hand off me. I begged. I can’t stand this anymore. I screamed out of fury at him. He finally removed his hand and looked at my sunken face, pale and peaceful, I could’ve been sleeping.
“I don’t know where you are Adeline. But I hope you’re happy. I hope I can again be someday.” He said, as he turned and stumbled dizzily out of the church. I wanted to comfort him, to let him know this would be okay. I sobbed and sobbed; sitting on the last pew and holding my stomach because of the pain my tears caused me. I gagged. I took a deep breath and lay backward on my pew. My tears streamed towards my ears, falling, spilling off the edge of my face and landing with tiny splashes on the floor. I’m dead. I thought. Dead. I bawled for hours as more and more people stepped up to my body to say a few words, privately to me or to everyone. I sat up suddenly, my eyes felt puffed and pained. I took a step gingerly towards the front of the room. Towards me. I took wobbly steps, unsure of myself and questioning my every move. I walked up to myself and grabbed my own hand. I was shocked at how cold it was, I was, how limp and lifeless.
“Elm?” My best friend’s voice ran out in my ears. Not her. Not now. Not Melody. Elm was what she called me when we talked privately, it stemmed from an old inside joke that neither of us could remember anymore. I called her Alder. Trees. Geddit?
“Elm?” Melody said again. “I guess I should call you your name. Adeline?” She said, as though using my legal name would wake me from the dead, and we could leave right now, go see another movie, maybe go to the park afterwards, and ponder books at the bookstore. Her hand reached for my scar, just above my thumb. No. I willed her. I can’t handle it right now. Instead of touching me, her hand came to rest on the side of my coffin.
“Adeline, what am I going to do?” She said, more to herself than to me. I know she’d pull through. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever met. She’s amazing. She’s the best.
“Adeline, I guess I should tell you something. I want you to know I’m sorry. I’m sorry that after all the nights you stayed up with me and consoled me and spoke to me and advised me and just listened and lost sleep over me and worried about me, that I didn’t say thank you as much as I should have. I know it would’ve meant the world to you.” She was right. It does mean the world to me when someone said thank you. “But it’s hard I guess. I’m not as good at expressing me emotions or whatever. Oh God, someone call the cliché cops.” She gave a weak attempt at a laugh. I smiled through my tears. It was one of our first inside jokes. The first of many. “I remember how we met. September 8. See? I learned something. And your birthday July 14. You taught me that.” She was terrible with dates. “I’m sorry Adeline. I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so…” she went on as she started to sob. Her voice broke, and my tears became thicker.
She reached for my hand and picked it up, feeling the ridges beneath my fingers and my nails, painted black as usual. Flashbacks returned. It was good this time. It was us, seeing our very first movie together, Super 8. It was us, freezing to death in the park, after I had come down to find her in tears. It was us at the biggest bookstore ever, reading and eating and laughing. It was us every Wednesday afternoon, doing whatever we felt like. It was us at her house eating amazing ice cream. It was us sobbing together over video chat. It was us worried about our first day of high school. It was us drawing in her backyard. It was us buying juice at 11:00pm. It was us pigging out on fries and ice cream. It was us in classes with sarcastic comments. It was us doing crazy random things. It was us. Just us. And that was the best gift I could’ve ever received.
“I love you.” Melody, Alder, whispered. She never says that. I do. She doesn’t. It’s fine. But it means so much to me.
I hope she remembers what I told her when her friend committed suicide a few years ago. “The ones who love us never truly leave us.” I’ll never truly leave her. I’m always there for her, inside her mind. I’m always here. I know she’ll miss me. I know that. But she can get through it. She’s wonderful.
I guess I did what I wanted to do in life. All these people here who knew me, who cared about me were here because of that. I know Melody depended on me, even if she didn’t say it. I know my dad missed me, even if I couldn’t speak to him. I know I matter to my brother, even if he can’t say it. I got what I wanted out of life. I got a life. Friends. Family. Everything I wanted.
I watched my best friend cry over my lifeless body, her red hair strewn over my hideous black dress and her gorgeous eyes wet with tears. She hadn’t worn her contacts today; maybe she remembered how I said she was beautiful either way. Her hands shaking over mine, suffering inside, she’d lost a person she cared about. Again. It was then when I realized death isn’t scary. Not for the dead one. Death affects the people who love you, the people who depend on you, the people who care. Death takes its victims one by one, but the victims Death takes aren’t the real victims. It’s the brothers, sisters, best friends, family and friends who are the real victims.