I wake up with a raw throat, an imaginary rosary strapped to my tongue, looking for an excuse not to go. It’s like praying to a vacuum, caught up in loss aversion, same way I’ve been since I was a boy.
Sis meets me in the lobby, her eyes wrung with equal parts anguish and anxiety, though this is her idea.
The funeral was a year ago. We both missed it on purpose. But now we drive to the cemetery, silence like a fog we can’t see through.
The sun is a ripe blister, the sky barren and lagoon blue.
Getting out, Sis takes off her shoes and I remember she only has seven toes, three lost to a lawn mower accident she’ll never talk about, just as there are so many things she won’t speak of.
“Where do you suppose he is?” I ask, scanning the plot, hand shielding my eyes from the glare.
“Dead,” Sis says, mannequin-faced, no smirk or trace of despair.
“Yeah, so many dead people,” I say, just to fill up space.
Some of the headstones are chipped or crooked, others have fresh flowers sitting next to them. It’s all years and dates and names, personal history.
Sis has just divorced her latest, number three, all of them nearly twice her age. When we were kids, on those times we felt safe, I could make her laugh until she peed herself. Now it’d be easier trying to make a rock chuckle.
It takes half an hour to find him, out on the northeast end where a muster of crows peck a patch of scorched grass.
I’ve been picturing this moment all year, not knowing what to expect. “So, yeah,” I say.
We stand staring at the granite marker. I have no idea what Sis is feeling or thinking, though when we were younger I could read her mind.
Time feels contorted, like a Dali painting, a drip sliding up a wall instead of down.
Then Sis moves forward, sort of floating. She lands a punch so hard it shocks me, as do the ones that follow in rapid repeat. Fist on stone, fist on stone, blood on stone, blood spritzing the air.
When I try to pull her away, she hits me with a swift right-cross and I tumble.
I lay there in the grass, watch the crows scatter in the air like pepper.
I wait until she’s worn out and sunken on her knees. I watch her start to melt, but before she does, I ask her the question I should have all those years ago.