I haven’t posted here in such a long time. I have been working on revisions for the book I mistakenly thought was completed. My timeline was out of order, so I have corrected that. I have filled out many scenes, and added many more. For whatever reason that urges such things, I thought I’d share one such scene with you. I love to hear from you, so please leave comments or questions.
Rose takes the arm that Dennis offers as they exit the church. It snowed overnight and this morning Rose feels she is standing inside a pewter cup; the image of Don Quixote with the barber’s bowl on his head makes her smile in a quizzical way. The thoughts we have, at the oddest times, she thinks.
She takes her seat in the limousine next to Kieran and Marie. Dennis drives their car. The heavy clouds have snuck into her brain somehow, causing her to feel muffled. Every thought she has is dull and impotent, a soft mess of tragedy and comedy.
The hearse drives slowly through the stately iron gates that separate this bit of earth from the homes across the street on one side and the cars zipping by on Metropolitan Avenue on the other. Angels and saints and large stone crosses rise up alongside ancient trees that stand sentinel over the occupants covered in dirt and memory. This is a place of reverence; there is no rushing here, no need to rush ever again.
There is no direct route to the patch of ground this dark procession is heading toward. This is some kind of metaphor, Rose thinks, designed to symbolize the winding roads of life that bring us ultimately, here. The earth is blessed, words echoing baptism are proclaimed by the deacon whose job it is to minister to the dead, to sprinkle holy water and make the sign of the cross that bought our eternal life, so she has been taught since infancy.
The ground is still soft at the Banfry family plot, still rounded from when their father was buried just weeks ago. The big square hole next to Phil Banfry’s mound is deep. The casket is suspended on straps so it can be lowered gracefully into the damp dark earth, to rest above the bones of their sister. Rose wonders what is left of Cilla, thirty years here. Surely the flesh is gone. In movies they open caskets to expose naked bone, hollows where eyes and nose once lived. Lips and face evaporated, teeth large and bold in a mockery of the once living person .
Ashes to ashes.
Her dress is probably still there, Rose thinks, covered in the dust that was once Cilla, that white dress she wore so proudly on her First Communion, holding a small bouquet, twirling the skirt out, tapping her white patent leather shoes on the tiles in church. The white is probably gray, maybe yellow.Empty dress. You’ve done your job. What was she spared, Rose thinks, for the first time, what was she spared being taken so young?
She turns back to her brother. In that box, such a lovely box, with brass handles, polished to a high degree.He slept on the floor in a room he never cleaned, now his broken body lies on satin, wearing his father’s suit. Our father. His dead face was not fit for viewing, smashed and torn on the rough asphalt. She had to identify him hours after he died. Yes, that’s my brother, that’s Jimmy. Though she only nodded and turned into her husband’s chest.
We had that one night, that last dinner of pot roast and beer. Do this in remembrance of me. He stood in the backyard, arms open to the rain, to the lightening. A second baptism; his last rites.Rose asked for the chaplain who served the morgue, asked for the anointing of the dead, though Jimmy may have scoffed at that, she asked for him because she needed to see her brother prayed over, signed with blessed oil.The ancient rites that join us generation to generation.Words of consolation and hope.Words of promise that this life was not in vain.This life mattered.
And, sudden as a gust of wind, a terrible possibility indicts her.
Did I do this? I wanted to save my brother, didn’t I? I wanted to have him in my life, I wanted him to be whole. I wanted him to be someone other than who he was. Someone clean and happy and successful.
But more, I wanted him to know my wounds! See, you were not the only one hurt by them. I wanted to let him know that all the years I was alone had taken their toll on me. I wanted him to take some responsibility for this. He was my big brother!! Why didn’t he protect me? Protect me from that soul disfigured priest. Protect me from our mother who lashed out because I was the only one there. Protect me from the pain of the absence of our father.
Did I do this? Did I kill my brother? The questions echo in Rose’s head. Did I ask too much of him?
This wildness in her! Standing here while the deacon reads from the gospels and they make the sign of the cross, even now, she makes the sign of the cross in unison with everyone while beneath these gestures, the real Rose is accused, tried and condemned because of her selfishness.
Pay attention! Here these men, strangers, in their dull black suits and black ties. Their uniform. Professional pall bearers. Professional mourners. We have to hire people to show us how to do this, this act that is just as much a part of life as birth. They go home to their lives and tomorrow there will be another family to escort to the grave.
They are so careful with his remains.Would they have noticed him just last week? Would they have crossed the street if they saw him coming toward them? Disheveled, dirty. His anger contagious. His illness a disease to guard against. I would have crossed the street. Hell, I wouldn’t have even been in the same street with him to begin with.
What did he need from me? Need from me? I only thought of what I needed, wanted. I wanted him to go back in time and save me from that priest, save me from my aloneness. I wanted him to be the son my parents wanted so there would be peace in the family.Was that too much to ask? Why did you have to make trouble, Jimmy? Why did you have to move in with Kathy? Why couldn’t you just be good, like they wanted?
This is just a nightmare, right? A nightmare and now I’ve learned the lesson. Now I can awaken from this terrible dream and know not to have expectations of Jimmy that he cannot handle.
What’s the use of learning if the price paid for my mistake is his death?!
There is no coming back from death, no chance, no second chance, no third. I’ve learned my lesson, God. I’ve learned. Oh please, let me wake up!! Let me wake up and see my brother, alive, whole, happy. Let Me!!
Who am I yelling at? A God who will not hear. A silent God, a God whose only answer is that Jimmy will remain dead and I will have to live knowing that I killed him. Knowing that I killed Cilla because I was tired of her being sick all the time?
It’s time to go. Dennis steers her with her elbow back to the car.