I walked into the church hall. The chilly marble basement probably looked cool as shit in the 70s but in 2007 it now seems to have proved a more lima bean complexion than regal sophistication. Such sophistication could be found nowhere in this mob of geriatrics. There are wrinkled and veiny hands reaching for every item of food. Toasted tough bread rolls and foil-paper butter packs, smushed or gone. Wet cold deli meat rolled and chopped then prodded with a toothpick, all but the shiny plastic tip picks demolished. The table-top looks like a war field where the elderly frontline spills a bowl of cherry tomato grenades. They detonate and darken the clothe to the dissonance of walker wheel squeaks and slides of neon tennis balls. Scrumptious chopped cheese delights for these stale palette old fogies are quickly devoured and backed by hardcore caffeinated and decaffeinated Catholics who use dentures to bite through styrofoam cup rims. Can’t help but think it’s due to nervousness; their subconscious feels father time nibbling on their near-end life cycle.
This time none seem to care about the dead ‘Father’ upstairs, filled with formaldehyde and menthol, dermis pretty and powdered from make up he never wore. They made him look like a cold practice prop of some pressure cooked mirror/make-up packet producing company. I imagine my namesake, standing up out of his coffin, eyes sunken and seeping with vapors as he makes his way down the marble staircase into the hall. By habit, he’d greet people and reach for a cigarette not knowing his embalmed body is two shakes of a man’s hand away from fuming and kabooming across the devoted to death congregation. It would be so serene. A meat and make-up cocktail bomb, silencing and saturating the crowd as he puffs a posthumous farewell; a modern day magic act for the ages. It would be a re-enactment of what was talked about each and every incense induced Sunday. The ‘flesh of my flesh’ symbology resurrecting from the dead, having died for the sins of the prideful and gluttonous et ceteras squawking like seagulls over genetically modified foods after his demise.
“Oh, you love me? Ta-da, Here’s my heart. Oh, you need me? Ta-da, here’s my knee. Oh, you are touched by my Christian efforts in the community? Ta-da, here’s my hand. Oh look! It came with a holy rosary. All you have to do is pry it from my cold dead hands.”
I see his spirit in the coffee, steaming with anger as they take away the tough treated chunks of him. While they speak false truths, their tongue and lips are singed with each sip. Do they act as he asked? Do they perform as he preached? Or are they here for the acknowledgement, an attention seeking scheme? Zoning in my emotions, I fixate my eyes back on the scene. My family is hungry but their mind’s are too busy to acknowledge alarms all screaming ‘eat’. Too bad really because the spread is pecked, the juice is dripping off the placemat edges, and the children are crying and tired.
Instead we serve the red-eyed seagulls. I rush for more conchas, ducking swinging arms as they embrace other funeral goers. The amount of petty that percolates inside me is enough to boil water. My father stirs his straight black breakfast. Too old-school to sugar coat anything, especially his coffee. As he excuses himself from the table, I notice the look in his eye— I don’t want to be here. I drop my tray of conchas making my way toward him and stepping on velcro strapped feet, interrupting the repose of the toes atop the insulated soles.
We’re outside our hood cathedral and he breathes out a cough as his ashy fist covers his mouth. His eyes are also sunken and seeping but with the agony of loss. His head is Bic’d to represent his ‘Fuck You’ stance against cancer. I can’t help but think of the battle he emblazoned.
“Hey cigarette, me and you- outside, now.”
A reoccurring fight he’s willing to face unsure of a win. I don’t know if he’s stuck on stupid for smoking or just stuporous and stuck on his brother’s death. We talk in fragments and short matter of facts, using sighs and head shakes as emphasis. I want to speak in epics and muster some sort of joy but I fall silent as the breezeless trees and the choke of sadness simmers between the place where my heart and throat meet. Some of the gluttonous gulls make their way out the church hall and attempt to bid us farewell before heading to their nests. Flocking around my father and me while mentioning our similarities to the deceased, I can’t help but think how they’d all react to mine or my father’s departure.
I wish my dad would’ve saved his rebellious ‘Fuck Yous’ for some of them. Instead they’ve been spent on cancer causing puffs of cigarettes, proving aliveness is the only spoil of war, regardless of what you’re fighting for or against. Making my way back in the hall, I see my family… serving and cleaning, their way of keeping busy. Some smile, others stare, others socialize. Me… I suppress. Pettiness coursing in me like the sickening menthol from cigarettes. It’s not good for me, but I don’t care. It feels good for the moment. It deadens me just for the moment. Dead in me; just, for the moment. Pettiness filters through focus and stupors my senses and so… I smile just for the moment.