It was Sunday and the grass was so green it burned my eyes. Back then, before the cherry blossoms took over, first the trees and then the faces, my eyes were sensitive to oversaturation. Too crisp, too dazzling felt like a papercut. A papercut I wish I could hold now. I wish I could hold it, even just for a few seconds.
On that particular Sunday, I sat my ass on a dewy bench between all the chatty bitches I hated. They thought I was some kind of devil, some kind of devil who doesn’t stick around for a chat, who doesn’t lunch, who doesn’t go to church with Mark and the children.
But this wasn’t church, it was a big green lawn attached to the cemetery. That quiet bed that as of late had been spilling over, consuming our elders like glazed chicken drummets, most bled to death, their casings emptying through pores, deflating, bagged skin swallowing bones.
The mayor had called us for a ceremony, some sort of morning prayer service, to protect our loved ones at home, not quite dead yet, wasting away in locked bedrooms. They had set up the benches in two rows with an aisle down the middle like a wedding. Every child under the age of six was instructed to lie down, in their Sunday clothes, their tiny shoes, on picnic blankets laid out in front of the benches. Some people were crying.
But the children did not cry, they lay down as they were told, twisting on their sides to giggle and squirm and whisper and smile screaming, tugging out grass with their fists and pretending to eat it. I remember watching my 3 year old daughter on that blanket, teething on her dress ribbon, hoping that my children would never grow up, not a day older, not a blade taller. I got nauseous thinking about it. I worried they would grow big and they would disgust me and I would stop loving them. Sometimes when I’m alone, I’m afraid. I don’t really love anyone. I love nothing at all.
The ceremony started. A woman, larger than a refrigerator, clomped down the aisle, veiled in black, clutching a basket filled with breadcrumbs. She spilled them in a trail on the path as she tread. She was swaddled in black velvet and silk and lace. Under her piled skirts I saw not two legs, but eight, thin ankles for such a woman larger than two cows sewn together. But fastened to the ankles were iron shoes, heavy as a horse’s. I couldn’t see much of her face buried beneath the curtains, but to me it looked like an oversized egg, smooth and hard and tan, mottled with dark splotches. I couldn’t make out eyes or mouth or ears or hair, to be honest I think she had none.
She hulked towards our children and fed each the crumbs. Little pigeons on the alter. Some sort of sacrament, I thought and I wasn’t wrong. Though more of a last supper. My daughter would never grow a day older.
The children, they did not cry, they lay there sleeping. Sleeping like the treasures they were, the treasures we wanted them to be. I’ve thought many times about becoming a treasure myself, but, as you know very well, it’s hard to know when to leave a party. Even a horrible party. A party where you’ve drank too much and said too much and made an absolute fool of yourself.