Choices. Chapter 4: 2006.
Death rears its head again. And fathers are absent again. See what I meant by common themes popping up? Back when I wrote this I thought I was just fucking around writing stuff that popped into my head. After I was done and decided to read everything I noticed that I was apparently dealing with the lack of success in my love life during that period of my life when I understood women even less than I do now. Now, in hindsight, I realize that I was also dealing with the idea of absent fathers, fatherhood itself, and what it actually means to be a man, as well as with the chains that bind us to our blood relations even when we wish they didn’t.
Ch. 4: 2006.
Oh, and I’m so homesick
But it ain’t that bad
‘Cause I’m homesick for the home I’ve never had.
-Homesick (Soul Asylum).
A wake, and the resulting funeral, was one of the very few family events he really had no preconceptions about. In all his years he’d never actually attended one, not for lack of relatives passing away or anything of the sort, mind you. Initially, he had not attended the few that did take place because he was deemed too young to behave with the proper solemnity. Later, he had not gone just because the deceased had not been that close a relation to him, or he had simply not known them at all. Or he had just been plain busy doing something else, somewhere else, and he couldn’t find the time.
It was not the case this day. For starters, he was on vacation from his job. And the fact that the deceased claimed a very close relation to him was no small matter, either. So there he was, wearing a black suit and tie and feeling very uncomfortable in the stifling heat of that August afternoon.
Looking around he could see almost no one his age, he was one of the youngest ten people in the funeral parlor, if not the youngest. He stopped a moment to wonder about his family and their need to separate youth from death. They thought that young people were hardly equipped to handle these situations, and the fact that the younger members of the family to attend were always visibly uncomfortable seemed to prove their reasoning, at least to their thinking. The surprising thing was that they didn’t realize that the very reason they had trouble dealing with it was the fact that they were always shielded from death like it was some sort of epidemic that could be contained, thus making it seem unnatural and far more sinister than it had to be.
He rummaged in his pockets for a cigarette or a stick of gum, anything to occupy his mouth and help him keep the unease in check. Of course, he found nothing but a few balls of lint, his house keys and a receipt from a convenience store where he’d bought a pack of cigarettes a few hours earlier. Same pack he was looking for right then, but wouldn’t be able to find because it was resting unnoticed on the backseat of the cab he had taken to the funeral parlor. Well, I’d been meaning to cut back on them, anyway, he thought, might as well start right now.
Regardless of this resolution, he ended up bumming one off one of his several uncles, which in turn forced him to make up a vague excuse to avoid a conversation he did not want to have. All for a cigarette he wound up ruining, being so upset that he lit it up backwards, filter pointing away from his face.
He moved to the side of the room, looking for an ashtray to discard the burnt stub, thinking that maybe he’d smoke it sans filter, but deciding at the last minute to just throw it away. He wished he was able to simply blend in the crowd and go unnoticed, but even if it seemed to be working for the time being, he knew that sooner or later someone would walk up to him to converse. And they’d expect and want a proper funeral conversation, full of solemnity and tragedy, full or seriousness. Why the fuck did they have to make it like this? As if losing a loved one wasn’t bad enough, they had to add to the experience the emotional drain of a gathering like this in which any sort of sense of well-being had to be crushed. He wished, not for the first time in his life, that he could just tell them all to fuck off and go to hell. But he couldn’t. Nobody would understand. Furthermore, they’d just attach to his behavior and words any number of meanings that had nothing to do with the reality of things. Meanings that fit comfortably with their narrow and closed minded view of things. God, he was tired of all that shit. It all seemed so pointless, unnecessary, masochistic, even. He certainly did not think that a relative feeling happiness during his funeral was any kind of insult to his memory. As long as that feeling had nothing to do with the actual fact of his demise, where was the harm? People had lives beyond social rites, and one couldn’t help feeling happy about fortunate things going on in one’s life. Sometimes it was difficult to subordinate those feelings to the sorrow caused by the death of, let’s say, an uncle thrice removed on your mother’s side. It was not wrong, it was normal. He idly fingered the blackened silver ring he’d been unable to take off for a few years now.
Looking around again, all he could think of was that, when he died, his funeral would by no means be like this one. Fuck that. He’d at the very least have one of those New Orleans style funerals, like a big party with music where everybody gets drunk and has a great time. Death was just too sad in and of itself to have people piling unnecessary grief on top of it. No need to add insult to injury. He felt sure his father’s remains would agree with the sentiment.