obligations

By , medina, OH
Stamping quickly and quietly up the frozen cement pavement to the glowing double doors, I begin to brace myself. Frigid air coming in quick, short puffs exits and enters in a moment as my body try’s to suck it down faster. Mary calmly leads the way, Matt keeping pace just beside her. I can’t help but wonder how they have prepared themselves for this task. Never have I felt so much a child in an adult situation than now, yet the people flanking me seem collected, and in time with the moment unfolding before them. Light spatters up onto the pavement my feet tap across, and then with a gust of musty warm air we silently enter the building.
There are no words. There is nothing to be said that can make these people feel better. For someone who vests so much in the written word, that’s devastating. The woman is a leaf. Physically her bulk fills her clothing, holds up her pants and keeps her shoes on. But inside she’s shrinking. I don’t even want to use empathy in this situation, there are no words. The man is trying to be a glue. His fleshy exterior is waxing and waning with each breath, laugh, and greeting shouted gaily at the bodies entering and milling around. This guise covers everyone, “Hey! So glad you could make it!” his voice booms under shouted salutations. My respect for this man is boundless, but no one coming up through the greeting line misses the obvious. He is resolutely facing forward, always forward, twisting his head when someone needs to come up from the side or farther. He doesn’t want to confront grief any more than the rest of us. Out in the lobby, coats decorate the hallway like musty decorations from Halloween long past. Murky, shiny, silky, rotund, puffy, elegant, boring. All the outerwear came to pay their respects. They are a far better behaved bunch than their more restless owners unwilling to stay put, milling around the pictures and flowers with tissues and pinched lips. Needless to say, my comrades and I are severely out of place. The three of us form a hesitant, wavering shield walking three abreast into the double doors onto paisley carpet worn and torn by the black shoes of generations of mourners. The vague murmurs heard in the hall become a cacophony of bittersweet volume, “ I just heard, I just couldn’t….never know to look at their faces the……Yes, I think it will be a time to remember the ….I just don’t know how we’ll…..”. Our bodies are invisibly joined somehow, by this awkwardness we’ve walked into, and for this brief moment in time we will walk, move, think, as one creature. Poster boards pass, filled with pictures of sugary birthdays countered by glistening pool parties and frilly children, dressed in their Sunday best. Inside the creature that is the three of us I start to look harder, trying to connect myself to this little girl. I am not part of her poster boards, there is no evidence of my presence here on her pasted memories. Nor should there be. As the three bodied creature approaches the casket, the man, the woman, and the small throng of relatives acting as bodyguards, everything grows smaller and smaller in my mind. However wrong it may be, whatever evils lie in my thoughts, of this much I am certain. Tonight I grieve not for the memories of for the girl I taught once a month, but for the child who lost her life when it had barely begun. For the missing family and the stricken relatives, the discomfited masses that come to murmur prayers and condolences and return home remembering why living is an honor and an obligation.





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