I'm standing on the tire and just barely making the roof rack trying to tie on two cornstalks for some dumb suburban broad.
"Stop being so fucking short." Smartass.
I give him the finger as he leans against the fence, and he smiles.
I finish tying the stalks up, and I see her brake lights glare and she drives away. "Your welcome!" I yell after her. I fucking hate when people don't say thank you. If anything, I say it constantly just to make up for her assholes like her.
The brake lights click on again and the car halts to a stop. Fuck.
She gets out and starts screaming. "I said thank you!" she says viciously. And I heard you talking about my car! BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!" Huge thundercunt. Great.
"Well, I'm never coming to this store again!"
"Good", I say. "Go to Home Depot instead."
"This is terrible service!"
"Anytime lady." I point my fingers at her like a six shooter and wink.
I almost got fired for that incident about three years ago. Ryer got in trouble too, because when that damn broad asked him what my name was after I walked away, he shrugged and never told her. After that incident, everyone at that store had to wear nametags. They hated us because of it.
I am driving the forklift in the early morning, severely hungover from too many drinks at the pub and irritable as hell. My grandfather died today twelve years ago, and my mother just called my cell to tell me that a single blossom appeared on the gardinia outside the house, just as it always does on Halloween. Gardinias were, of course, his favorite flower.
"He's watching us today."
And then the sunlight charges through the clouds and laces into my face, and something inside me finally breaks, and a voice inside me audibly says it: "Today is the day. You must finally do it. Today. This is not a choice."
"You've never been there? Going on Halloween huh?" my boss asks.
"Yea. Time to put some ghosts to rest."
I'd quite forgotten that today was Halloween. It's kind of like realizing that the Fourth of July is tomorrow while you're lying wounded during the last day at Gettysburg.
I'm driving down Totowa Road, and it's now almost 5:30. If you live anywhere in New Jersey, than some poor soul you used to know lies in Totowa, for it is home to almost all the massive cemetaries for a few miles around- it's the only town in America with more dead residents than live ones.
The whole day, I have been tearing up and choking it back, steeling myself for what I must do. Now, I can't hold it back anymore. This dam, which held fast for so long, has burst.
It's on the right hand side off the road.
As I slow down, I see the massive building, the gray stone square lurking over the road. I begin tearing uncontrollably, and nearly lose control of the car. I pull into the circle driveway in the front where all the roads spider from, and my left arm goes numb from the elbow down. I am hyperventilating, sobbing, and my lungs tightens as if a wire were were tied around my neck like in the Mafia hits. I pull onto the road that I know goes to his grave. Now my right arm turns numb and I can't feel the steering wheel anymore, my hands are shaking violently and the tears pour down like old water from a broken fountain.
Two lefts. A right. Park by the garbage can. There's a green marker on the grass. Go straight.
I am wandering, wandering, "Where are you motherfucker?" These headstones are too old to be yours...
Suddenly I turn and see it, and I know it's his before I read it, a bronze plaque embedded onto a patch of marble. When I see the hints of the initials my knees buckle under the cold October sunset and I fall on his grave and start weeping, unadulterated wails coming from someone who has just held this all in for too fucking long. I have broken.
Forever in Our Hearts
Ryer W. J-------.
November 21, 1982 - January 19th, 2005
Beloved Son and Brother
It all dumps out, all the hate and anger and pain and bitterness, it seeps from me as the feeling starts coming back to my hands, starting from my elbows, as if the rage is draining out of me and into the dried brown dead grass where my best friend lies, my brother, in his eternal rest.
I am so sorry, my old friend! I am so sorry it took me three fucking years to get here, three long years to be able to handle seeing your name engraved on this patch of metal! I am sorry I couldn't fix everything with your old girlfriend, I am sorry I couldn't straighten out your brothers like you could have! I am so sorry!
And then I begin to talk....
"You know all the answers I need to know man. What's God like? He better be cool. That would suck if he wasn't... I hope you didn't feel anything. I hope it was quick buddy, you just passed the fuck out and never woke up, never felt anything, ... I know it wasn't the coolest death you could have had... getting killed by a pirate would have been a lot cooler of a way to go... or even a ninja... even though they're kinda gay and all." This is a conversation I could only have had with him, and he is smiling somewhere at the overwhelming irony of me.
I tell him about his ex. I tell him how I hate that she's living with the guy she is, and so I keep my distance, but I watch her from afar to make sure nothing bad happens to her. I may not like her anymore, may not agree with her chosen path... but he loved her. And that's enough for me.
I tell him about her sister who was a little sister to all of us. "She is a knock out now, Ryer, you should see'er. She is no longer that young, awkward 16 year old you had to carry out of Chud's house after she drank too much.... she has grown into a beautiful, strong woman. You'd be proud of her."
I tell him about my father, how the only time I saw the old man cry in my life was at his funeral, and how he told me once after a few beers that he loved him like a son, would have let him live with us anytime he needed to without question. "He drank that twelve pack of Yuengling you bought him for driving him to work all those times... he drank it on the day you died."
I tell him about how the bosses miss him, still talk about him once in a while, with a twinkle in their Scotch-Irish eyes.
I tell him that me and Jenn broke up. I tell him how I selfishlly wish he was there to help me with that, because I needed a guiding hand, and he was always wiser than I was. "I didn't know what to do... I hurt her so fucking bad, I needed someone to tell me I was doing the right thing."
I tell him about my new endeavor, the great challenging woman who has made a mess of me for the last year. "Ryer, you should see her. She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, she looks like an angel put on Earth, luminescent and glowing and wonderful. I don't know if she'll ever be mine... but she is everything to me. Ryer, I'm sorry about the jokes I made after your ex left you. I never understood what it was like to love a girl so passionately and unconditionally, and then to lose her. I'm sorry... I never understood. I understand now. Oh, man do I understand."
Lastly, I told him about me. How much it fucking murdered me that he died, how I thought for a while that I should have died in his place, or at the very least died also, just so he wouldn't have to be alone over there. How I haven't slept well for years, how many times I would break down and tears would stream out and I would just want this life over. How many times I cursed off God in gin induced rages, or how I was thrown from the Church by that voice in the bushes on that hot night where I knew God was angry at me. How many times I was hopeless.
It all falls away from me like an angry shell, shattered into pieces and for the first time in years I feel like myself again, the young hopeful kid with dark cunning eyes who was quick with a joke and had a jovial spirit about life. I haven't felt like this in fifteen years. I draw the smoke from my cigarette, sitting just above the line where the dirt settled so many years ago. There is a prescence here, solid, like he was. I am comforted by it. I get the feeling that in the Otherworld, he has met my stout Italian grandfather, and no longer wonders how I came out so short and dark when the rest of my family is tall and bright. I get the feeling that things are ok.
"My friend, I would have never told you this during life, but I always wanted to be just like you. Strong, tough, a good head on your shoulders, a gorgeous girlfriend, hopes for the future. I will live the life that you should have been able to. I will do all the things that I promised myself I wouldn't, I will get married, I will have kids, and I will raise them to good, strong, righteous people with a sense of purpose, because I am so lucky, so fortunate to carry breath in my lungs, that it would be a sin for me not to. You never had the chance... so I will take mine. I will live."
I take his nametag out of my pocket, slide my thumb over it one last time. Like Goose's dog tags. RYER, printed in big black letters on the white background, faded now from being in my car for so long, from having so many tears fall and hit it. I smile, think of that stupid broad in the car, amazed by the fact that if she hadn't cause such a commotion that day, I wouldn't have had this last reminder of you that I grabbed from by the time clock the day you died.
I lay it next to the headstone, pin it to the ground as best I can. I take out a cigarette and leave it on the base of the headstone. This is the last cigarette you'll bum from me, fucker. But this one is my gift.
I lean over on bended knee and kiss his headstone, and the wind whips on my cheeks that are strewn with dried tears.
"I love you, brother. And I will see you soon. But not yet."