Though it’s been years, I remember visiting this cemetery with my mom to lay costume jewelry on the family plot. Fires burned in the foothills. The sun slunk through the smoke. If I close my eyes, I can see my candy wrappers being swept off headstones by the Santa Anas, wrinkled cellophane and ash from the Garden of Ascension to the Vale of Memory.
I want to share the memory with FF, my best friend. But he’s busy. He sits beside me on a love-seat in the lobby of the funeral chapel, crowding me with his big gym muscles. The powerful odor of pomade. Hunched over his phone, he types the word love, which is code for MDMA.
“Thanks for this,” I say.
“What time does the service start?” he says.
“Let’s wait for more bodies to show.”
“Yeah but I need to be somewhere.”
He acts like my mom’s death isn’t hard for him too. As if he isn’t still mourning his own long dead mom. But now we are brothers. We are our own mothers.
I stare out the funeral chapel’s split-paned window. Squint. Hard shadows cut through the glass and chop me to pieces. It’s impossible to get comfortable and I shift between the cheeks of my ass, worried the wound there is infected. Beneath my Goodwill suit, I can feel it pulsing. Weepy and sharp.
Through the window, I watch a gardener on a riding mower. He manicures the graves in tight meditative rows. He wears a Dodger-blue bandana set low on his brow to mop the sun from his eyes, and it makes me think of my mom. Her headaches. A wet towel compressed to her forehead in her bedroom, so sensitive to seasonal allergies, sound and the unceasing summer light. People seem to think it’s impossible to feel sad under the Southern California sun, but I have seen otherwise. Once, I had a girlfriend who confessed that on summer days she would sit at her bedroom window and rub herself to the rev of the gardener’s leaf blowers. People here are desperate to live. They’ll do anything. They’ll eat organic. They’ll buy gym memberships. They’ll do hot yoga and hang upside-down. They’ll set intentions.
Other people though, they just want the medicine, not the cure. My mom bought supplements off infomercials. Each week a new life-extending miracle pill she’d try once and never again.
She didn’t want to live, not really.
Not her life.
A lot of people feel that way.
Maybe you do too.