AlvernoINK Spring / Fall 2017 - Page 13

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I tried to stand upright with confidence in the back of the church as I shook with cold sweats. I couldn’t find his face from my position because the number of bouncing heads in the room concealed him from my view. Thank god so many people loved him. It was nearly two weeks after I found out that he left us, but I can’t tell you what happened leading up to this point because I was not there. Physically, I must have been, but my mind was still set on that day on the porch when my world came closing in on me. I would never have imagined that a sting in my heart could be caused by someone else. Up until this exact moment, I swore to myself that I was stronger than this. My legs were weak as if I had been running for the timespan of these weeks. My emotional exhaustion has now become physical; I didn’t even know that was possible. As the line moved closer and closer to the casket, it felt as though my shoes were filled with cement. I held my best friends hand, as my fiancé stood with his hands on both of our backs. Her hand was warm and damp, but it didn’t matter to me. Any sign of life coming from a person that I love made me appreciate that they weren’t as stiff and unfamiliar looking as he did in that casket.

There I stood, cold and still as a statue, as I stared at my childhood friend without blinking. It was difficult to remember what he looked like when he still existed. The family had waited so long for this day that his face was pulled back like a dog out of the window on a freeway. The color of his face, nor porcelain white or tan from the onset of summer, but soft purple. The impassive look of his mouth made me wonder if his last moments of humanity were pleasant. I am optimistic that his days before becoming past-tense were as undisturbed as I was on my porch. The only part of him that I wanted to see last time was his fingers. Those short, stubby nubs that I made fun of him for years about. I will never in my life be able to see or touch those hands again. When that realization hit me, I jumped into his mother’s arms. She was the one who had to stand over his head for hours as family and friends came along to pass their condolences, yet she was the one comforting me. She talked to me as she rubbed his hair. Today, that uncomfortable image tends to provoke an internal fit, causing me to slam my eyes shut and shake my head to erase the image before it consumes me forever. I didn’t want to hold up the line any longer and I didn’t want to continue to watch the grieving mother rub my deceased friends head, but I couldn’t walk away from him. I could not yet accept the fact that this would be the last time I walk away from him, in the flesh.

We slowly followed his casket into the hearse. This time, it felt as though nothing were inside me. I was light as a feather because I wanted to be everywhere that he was going, dead or alive. The sound of those back doors slamming shut was something compared to a loud crash you’d hear in the middle of the night, awakening from a sound sleep. I was immediately dragged back to consciousness to discover a dragonfly, circling everyone in the crowd. It could have been my distorted emotions of grief telling me that, that was him, but it had to be. That was all I had left.

I saw my dragonfly just a few days before he was gone forever. My arms were tired and filled in the grocery store, so I turned in the opposite direction to avoid conversation, knowing we would speak another day. He didn’t let that happen. I saw his eyes meet me and call “Jean!” just like he always did. We talked about his birthday plans, my recent trip to Ireland, and other nonsense like good friends do. I promised him the bottle of Jameson I brought home straight from Europe, not knowing that I would never actually be able to give it to him. Thoughts of our last conversation help me understand the cliché, “Only the good die young”.