It’s been a while–please accept my apologies. No excuses, no reasons, just…yeah.
A man I used to go to church with–who later married a cousin of ours–was killed last week. It was a car accident–he ran off the edge of the road, overcorrected, collided with another vehicle. The other driver walked away with minor injuries…but my cousin’s husband, S, wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. He died en route to the hospital, leaving behind his wife and two daughters. He was 37.
Firstly, I wanted to slap him for not wearing his seatbelt. To know a simple length of reinforced cloth would’ve likely stood between him and death is angering. But there’s aught for that now. What’s done is done, and his wife is picking up the pieces. I saw her, tonight, at the funeral home; she was half-hearted, broken smiles and hugs for people she hadn’t seen in years. His daughters weren’t in the receiving line with her–the eldest (fifteen) had wandered off with someone’s baby, and I saw her laughing and bouncing it on her lap in the entryway (where everyone coming in passed her); the younger girl (about thirteen) looked blank, distant…which I fully expected–and I was standing in that line, grasping B’s hand like it was the only thing grounding me. My mom was directly in front of me, my uncle and aunt ahead of her. If my father had been in town, I’d have gravitated to him, too, as shelter. Funerals for younger people–people near my age, especially–affect me in strange ways, and have done so since the death of a girl in our church (that same church) when she was fifteen and I was fourteen. I saw myself in her, then, as I saw B in S, now. It terrified me…I suppose it still does.
As we approached the casket, I saw pictures his family had put out. There, off to the side, was one of S when he graduated high school. That’s how I remember him–when he was eighteen and absolutely convinced he loved me. I was fifteen and unimpressed. I’d never had a boyfriend and had no idea what I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t him. And I remember walking away from him outside the church and telling him that I didn’t love him, and I wasn’t going to. I don’t believe I even looked back.
Good God, I was a callous thing. But he was insistent that we were great for one another, and I knew better. Even at fifteen, I knew there was someone, something, I was meant for…(and he’s sleeping on the other side of this queen-sized bed, only a tiny, towhead girl between us.) After all this, I cling to him a little harder, kiss him a little more lingeringly, watch him a little more closely. I love him too much not to be reminded (how harshly!) how fleeting life is.
They’ll bury S tomorrow–his family will commit the spirit to heaven, and the body to the warm, red clay in the midst of a blistering Carolina summer. His wife will go home and slowly come out of shock, likely with little time before bills and needs come knocking…his daughters will go back to school and be the ones people talk about, for a little while, at least…and he will lie, moldering, under a grassless rectangle of crimson soil.