By Samuel Levy
I’m on top of a train. It’s a freight train being dragged along an endless railroad, and it’s going very, very fast. I don’t know why or how I got there, but here’s what I do know: I know that if I try and jump off, I’ll go splat on the ground and die from the impact of the fall. I also know that soon enough the train and I will go through a tunnel, and that, surely, when the train goes through one side of this tunnel I won’t be coming out the other. So the only two choices I have are to suck it up and jump off, or get knocked off by slamming against the tunnel wall. I try as hard as I can to come up with a third option, a Plan C. It feels like it’s on the tip of my tongue, maybe. But no. There isn’t any way out of this mess.
So I do a funny thing. Instead of cowering in fear, pointlessly, I lie down. I spread my arms and legs out awkwardly on the roof of the train and make imaginary snow angels – ignoring the gravelly jolts – feeling the sun cover my skin while the train hurtles along toward the underpass. Smoke fumes ooze from the chimney. I can hear the engine of the steam locomotive screech, choo choo, choo choo. I can see the tunnel getting closer and closer and bigger and bigger and that’s when I wake up.
I pull the sheets off, damp, and rest against the headboard in a cold sweat; Wally’s comatose, drooling shamelessly on his pillow.
The whole family came over for Chanukah last night, we had a yummy smorgasbord in the dining room before opening presents and it was all very wonderful. The kids are getting older. I’m getting old. The grandkids are growing up, but I’m growing down and paranoid and miserable. I can’t sleep. I’ve had another stressful nightmare. I creep downstairs, tiptoeing so the floor doesn’t creak. I sneak into the kitchen and open the fridge for a teeny little midnight snack while Wally snores like a vacuum upstairs. I can hear his echo vibrate through the ceiling.
There are two crayon bubble-letter birthday cards and a picture of me in a bathing suit about fifty summers ago, glued to the refrigerator door with a magnet. I ignore it. A guilty excitement courses through my veins when I spot the leftovers from supper stuffed in the corner of the shelf, and I unwrap the tinfoil to find a sesame bagel covered in cream cheese and lox. Thing is, I’m technically not supposed to eat this late because it gives me acid reflux and I’m on a diet that my doctor recommended after I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes.
I gobble up the bagel anyhow, in a pathetic attempt at rebellion. The cream cheese sticks to the roof of my mouth. Wally’s piggish snorts are gradually growing more aggressive, starting abruptly and then fading back into the rhythm of his heavy breathing.
He’s a neurologist, a good one – or was, I should say. Hasn’t made a lot of money in a long time. Nobody wants a doctor in worse condition than themself, I guess. Instead of filing for bankruptcy or going into foreclosure he finally up and retired, because soon enough he’d have a stroke or something and it’d be too late by then. We’re living and dying on his pension.
I could piss enough to fill up a toilet bowl. My back is killing me, my leg is killing me, Wally’s wheezing is killing me… the only thing that’s not killing me is myself. That job’s reserved for God.
When you’re middle-aged you want your youth back, when you’re old you want your life back – and since I can’t have that the next best option is death. Excuse me for being morbid.
Last Christmas, Wally suggested we go on a luxury cruise to the Caribbean, and I got so paralyzed at the thought of travelling I couldn’t even get up out of bed. It may seem strange to you people, a woman who clearly doesn’t enjoy her life so worried about the prospect of death – well, it beats me too.
All I know is I’d rather die than mark time like territory, in a rocking chair, at a nursing home. This home is bad enough as it is, and the idea of shuffleboard and bingo in that pseudo-utopia makes me want to puke my guts out.
You grow and grow and grow until you start to shrink, and with that shrinking comes a crippling fear of being stepped on.
Everybody assumes little old ladies like me are either wise or cute. We’ve gained a reputation for it, all right. But take it from me: The elderly aren’t wise; we’re weary. People have a curious tendency to mistake weariness for wisdom.
I suppose people get what you’d call “deeper” as we get older, but we also get emptier. When you’re young you’re full of everything – wonder, ambition, excitement and fear and hatred – and then as you get older all those things you were so full of are diluted down to less potent versions of what they once were. Wonder turns into interest, ambition turns into initiative, excitement turns into surprise, fear turns into panic, and what was once hatred turns into nothing but bitterness.
I’ve hoped to be happy, and on occasion I’ve actually tried. There is no word for “not lonely,” except popular and happy, neither of which really count. But not lonely, or anti-lonely, is what everyone wants to be, and occasionally tries to be, and can be, only to a certain extent.
Moments are like a school of fish passing by, and we can only catch so many while the others slip away unnoticed. They’re like droplets of water dribbling from a pipe, one at a time, and we can’t stop the leak. All we can do is put a bucket underneath until it’s filled to the brim and has to be emptied. Time is to be caught and captured, and whether or not we’ve lived our lives well can be determined by how successful we’ve been at catching the time we have, and then ravishing and savoring it the best we possibly can. We must-must-must do this, instead of ignoring it and letting it bleed away without really trying to wrest out all the value and power that each individual moment can have; without squeezing and draining away every second of its full potential. Most people fail to put a scuttle under the seepage.
The goal should be to make it count, not make it last. Quality over quantity, right?
There is no growing for folks of a certain age and up, only needing, wanting and doing. The experience is no longer there. So now all I can do is pass the time until my time is in the past.
That’s it. Turns out my life hasn’t been all that different from other lives, after all. I guess I thought it would be.
Since I was about fourteen I thought that somehow, I was going to make a big dent in the universe. Disrupt it or something. Make way for Miriam, I thought. But the truth is that even if I had become improbably famous or important to the human race, I still barely would have made a dent. History books will become obsolete, just like me. It’s like a dust mite gnawing away at a giant turkey leg. The poor thing’s got no idea how big what he’s eating really is, and how tiny he is in comparison. He can spend a million years masticating and manducating, and he can bring in a whole army of dust mite friends to help out, but from the outside the turkey leg’s never going to look like it got bitten.
Before human life arrived, the world wasn’t waiting for it. It was content to be itself, alone, like an empty street corner, and will be equally content after we’re all gone.
An unprecedented feeling of bottomless gloom washes over me as I shut the lights off in the kitchen and the den. I have the creeping suspicion that life on earth might be nothing but a short-lived experiment put out by the universe, and that we’re the lab rats in this experiment, but then I think: Eh, who cares?
I’m bloated and clammy from the bagel. I head upstairs, pee in the master bathroom and hop back into bed, feeling a rush of comfort as I submerge myself in the wrinkled ocean of sheets. When the world feels particularly cold and uninviting, a good bed is like a hug, warm and grateful and big. A bed feels the way the world should.
Wally’s corpse is stretched out underneath a blanket and I push him over to his side. He grunts. Old men: Some get angry, some get quiet, and some get Alzheimer’s.
I’m not very sleepy but I sure as hell am tired.
Youth is a blessing, you know, but old age is earned. That’s not to say it’s a reward.
Even though I’ve been doing it since I was born, I’ve not all that fond of growing old. The thought of aging doesn’t appeal to me. It’s change. I don’t like change. Same reason I hate goodbyes and the same reason I hate endings of any kind, particularly to good things, like a life that shouldn’t end because it’s on a roll, but ends anyways, because that’s the way life works; things that shouldn’t happen do, and not at the service of some big cosmic plan.
Every Sunday night for the past ten years I’ve watched a one-hour serial drama on cable with Wally. Every time one of these series’ ends, I cry. For the record, I don’t mean the teary-eyed wistful kind of cry; I mean all-out sobbing. The kind where you put your body into it. This is something I’ve experienced for the last decade or so; I always feel unreasonably nostalgic when a television show I like has ended. Same goes for the end of a fabulous book. The end of a vacation. The end of an era. The end of a relationship. All these things hurt like hell because they bring to mind what my brain’s been running from:
With every life there’s a death waiting patiently. You could say it’s like a dead end, only the dead end isn’t blocking the road – it’s where the road was headed in the first place.
I just closed up shop for the last time. Looking at my empty, dark office from the outside, I try and fail to summon up a little goodbye nostalgia. I was a decent neurologist – maybe one of the best in Long Island – but recently I’ve decided to retire, so I’m shutting down my medical practice for good. I’m seventy-one. Quite frankly, I don’t feel up to it anymore. Miriam and I are selling the apartment we’ve spent countless weekends in for the last couple decades. The apartment is a one bedroom one bath in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and we used to sleep over on Saturdays, occasionally go see a Broadway show. It was very nice, but now it’s over and it looks like we’re moving to Miami.
This may seem like a very stereotypical destination for a couple our age, but from what I’ve heard all the elderly-folk flock there once they’re ready to settle down, kick back and relax. It’s the permanent vacation before the really permanent vacation. Truth be told, I’m not too excited about the Florida idea; the thought of early bird specials at Denny’s and making friends with neighbors who I have nothing in common with except age is nothing short of horrible to me, but Miriam wants to go and I’ll never hear the end of it. She’s a grade-A nagger.
I drive home, pull the key up under the mat and unlock the door, quietly. Life is short until you hit sixty-five, at which point you realize just how long it really is.
At sixty-five life has overstayed its welcome, and so have you.
Around that age, I began to feel like I was living in the aftermath of a bygone life. I had made all the memories I would ever make, and I didn’t have the strength or stamina to make new ones because I was old and finished and constantly sore in the bones. The most famous of all life crises is the one that takes place at around forty, but I think there’s a special crisis for every period of your life, including the end. Nobody ever knows what life’s about; all they know is it’s about to be over. Doesn’t matter if you’re young or old – it’s always about to be over.
When he’s got a family and a wife and a job, a man can’t rest whenever he feels like resting – not even when he feels like he needs to. He’s been slogging away his entire life just to stay above water – with the added difficulty of being a decent human being – and finally he just wants to lie back and reap the benefits. He wants to call it a day. He wants to call it a life.
He wants his reward. Fair enough.
So at the age of sixty-five, I made a half-baked plan to retire. Maybe buy a boat and go sailing with Miriam, or at least have picnics anchored on the dock.
Soon enough, though, I sat down on my plastic-wrapped paisley couch and relaxed, free of the burden of goals and the duties necessary to achieve them. I stupidly waited for that reward to come.
Did I really think I’d experience some kind of prolonged bliss in the fourth quarter of my life? That I’d just get to sit on a throne, basking in whatever glory I’d managed to snatch up in my prime? Is that what I’d always been working towards?
Whatever I thought, I know now that it doesn’t work that way. There is no plateau. There is no reward. No one is compensated by anything or anyone but themselves. No one has ever finished doing their part in this world until they’re expelled from it. The truth is that there’s much more pleasure in doing than in having done. Pride and self-worth, the knowledge that you’ve reached your goals and maybe even surpassed them – these are not marvelous feelings. They’re necessary, sure; highly sought after, too. But you can’t live on them.
In other words, it’s impossible to enjoy the spoils of victory without enduring the hardships of war. Our wars have to be fought every second of every day – against isolation, against selfishness, against laziness, against remorse, against the lesser part of ourselves. These flaws can metastasize if we don’t destroy them early on. If there’s anything I know for sure, it’s that living is exhausting. Exhausting’s better than boring, though, so I never retired after all.
Now I’m eighty and I have to retire, for my health. My doctor, he’s prescribed it. Now that I finally have the time to do whatever I want, I’m burnt out from all the years I didn’t. “All you need to give a great man is a life,” my dad told me before I headed off to college, “and he will do great things with it.” Easier said than done, dad. He didn’t live to see me graduate.
I climb into bed. Miriam’s fast asleep and I don’t want to wake her, so I slide under the sheets noiselessly. She’s turned away, and I glance at the back of her head before melting into my pillow. I look at her pajamas, quaffed hair and all, and think to myself: She’s not all that bad. This woman that I’ve known for the majority of my life – she’s going to die soon. What happens to me when she dies?
I’m going to die soon. What happens to me when I die?
Being human is a very rare opportunity. Maybe the reason all things that feel must die eventually, and therefore cease to feel, is that emotions are a very beautiful thing that are simply too powerful and overwhelming to be felt for longer than about a hundred years. Life, it seems, is something bestowed upon matter for a short time. It’s rationed out, and just sampling these gorgeous abilities to think and feel and love and connect and want – that’s all we get before we’re gone for good. We are emotion incarnate, interacting with one another in a busy swarm of pulsating sentience regardless of whether or not we accepted the invitation to begin with – until the party’s over.
I’m afraid, though, that I’ve been given one chance to be alive and yet have never really registered the alive-ness, so to speak. I’ve never been the type to get going or go getting.
My whole life I felt like I was standing in the middle of Grand Central station, people dodging me and sort of seeing me as an obstacle to get around – like a water fountain or a baluster. If you’re not constantly moving, it seems, people will mistake you for an object. They won’t have any idea you’re alive. I am – alive, that is. I just haven’t taken advantage of it.
You see, there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who watch trains go by from the station, and those who watch the station go by from the train. I’ve spent my whole life watching the trains.
Wally is sick. He’s fallen ill and he can’t get up. Now I’m going to have to buy a new bed, a single, because after he’s gone I’m sure as hell not sleeping in a deathbed with an empty spot.
Everything that has ever been alive has an arc to its story, my rabbi tells poor old Wally, leaning over his bedpost with a useless Torah in hand. Everything that has ever been alive has an arc of life and death, he says, built into the fabric of its existence.
There’s a seed. Seed grows into plant. Plant thrives for a while, maybe, under good care and circumstances. Eventually, plant withers; plant gets drained of all its life and energy. Plant doesn’t grow or change or move any longer. Plant is inert. Plant disappears into ground, forever and ever.
There’s an embryo. Embryo grows into baby, which grows into person. Person thrives for a while, maybe, under good care and circumstances. Eventually, person withers, gets drained of all his life and energy. Person doesn’t grow or change or move any longer. Person is inert. Person disappears into ground, forever and ever.
We seem to think of ourselves as the beneficiaries of nature nowadays, rather than a constituent of nature itself. But the arc applies to all living things, and we happen to be the most complex. So there’s nothing especially cruel about our fates, compared to a plant’s.
There was a point in our lives when Wally and I were a very picturesque couple. We had a beautiful wedding, an even more beautiful honeymoon, we went out of our way to look into each other’s eyes, and had the same ridiculous you-and-me-against-the-world-mindset that all lovebirds have.
Like I said, it was picturesque.
If there is a God, I wonder if he feels bad when he sees two people deeply, hopelessly in love. I wonder if he sighs and thinks to himself, “They look so happy and so invincible, and I betcha they think they’re immortal too. It’s a shame I’m going to kill them one day.” I wonder if he looks down at them as they’re lying on a bed and caressing each other’s hair, saying “I want to be with you until the end of time,” and I wonder if he’s touched by that tragedy. All lovers are star-crossed. All fates are ill.
Whoever created us had no idea how desperately attached to our lives we would be, how resentful we would be of their predetermined decision to take it all away. It must’ve been a mistake, making us this emotional and confused and wistful and able to cherish and grieve. Anyone who would’ve done this on purpose is very cruel and has a fetish for emotional sadism, watching us squeal as we face the vicious and inexorable desolation of this world, watching us wince as we see the fire come closer and closer in a room where all the doors are locked.
We can’t handle the pain. We can’t handle the mourning. We can’t handle the aloneness. We can’t handle the tragedy. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that you put a bunch of creatures on this planet bound and destined to want something they can never have? Don’t you know that we’re not strong enough to figure out what this thing is, but nonetheless feel it deeply in our bones and know deep down that it’s not real? Don’t you know how hard that is? Did you have any idea how much we’d come to desire and love and fear and miss things during our time here? Didn’t you know that we’d catch onto the cruelty of this nasty set of circumstances?
Nobody likes tragedy, and nobody wants to take part in one. And yet here we are, and it’s a tragedy, plain and simple, and I want a refund. That’s what makes it a tragedy.
I believe that dying men can tell they are about to die. In some way or another, without exception, we do. We can feel it coming on, like a virus or a bad cold. I know what my body has planned for me, the mutiny it’s about to execute.
I’ve never felt any pity for those who bask in their own sadness. Especially those who surrender to it because, in some screwed up way, they almost enjoy it. Like a downer drug. Makes me sick. I believe that you must fight, fight, fight for your life to be full of joy when sadness starts its sneaky invasion, and only those who have fought hard and well and have lost should be pitied.
Those rules don’t apply to me now, however. I’m afraid there’s not much use in fighting, because there isn’t much life left worth saving.
One day you’re born. It’s a random day, and the year and decade and century and millennium are all very random too.
On your mark, get set, go, someone says. Go ahead, live your life. Right now. Let’s see how well you do. You grow, and you’re about fifteen when you start to wonder just how well you’re actually going to do. Pretty damn well, you think. This is my life, you think. All mine. And I will do with it whatever I please.
We all have our own lives, and we own them, and they are our possessions, and we look after them the best we can. We’ve got our clothes and we’ve got our cars and we’ve got our pets and we’ve got our lives. We must take care of them or else we’re bad owners.
But maybe you don’t do too well. Maybe you don’t break new ground and maybe you’re not as exceptional a contestant as you would have liked to be. Oh well. That was your chance. You blew it.
But maybe you have a child. And maybe you hope that this child of yours may manage to execute his dreams a bit more successfully than you have. And maybe you think that since you couldn’t make something valuable, you can make someone that will. And maybe you think that, vicariously, you will have made what they have made because you have made them. You hope, at least. This is why you have a child, so you can die without knowing for sure that you were worthless, because after your death there’ll be a little surrogate of your creation running around and achieving things in your place.
Flash forward forty years. You are dead. This child of yours is no longer a child, and he’s been given a shot at life just like you, and just like you he hasn’t done a remarkable job. It’s too late for him now, though. So he has a child.
Lately I’ve been wondering if the only reason family is essential – the only reason it continues and will continue to be the most important thing in every society everywhere – is that it seems to solves the two greatest of all existential fears: The fear of being forgotten after death, and the fear of dying alone. You need someone there to mourn over, and someone there to mourn over you.
Well, family doesn’t solve these problems – not really. Eventually those who have loved us and remembered us will die as well, and those they have told about us will die next, and eventually the whole human race will die off, and then the sun will explode and destroy everything in its vicinity, including the earth, and then the universe will fade away, and there will be no stars or planets or anything, and everything will be black and empty. So who will remember you then?
We mistook science for God, we mistook the brain for the soul, we mistook DMT for heaven. When you die a chemical called Dimethyltryptamine, otherwise known as DMT, is released by the pineal gland. DMT is the same psychedelic compound that spawns dreams; it’s effects last for about 6-12 minutes after death, but are perceived by the brain as lasting an eternity. All near-death experiences are the result of a premature DMT discharge. So there it is, folks. The mystery is solved.
All the philosophers who’ve speculated that dreams are some sort of preview to the afterlife – they were all right. Dreams, the metaphysical and the mythical, heaven, this belief in postmortem oneness with the universe, the phenomenon of spiritual transcendence – all of this can be chalked up to biology. Nothing but the chemical byproduct secreted from an endocrine gland after an animal’s body has ceased to function.
One could, and one will, make the argument that DMT is just further evidence of God’s will, God’s way of giving us a glimpse into the awesome nature of existence before we’re expelled from it. But even if that’s true, we are expelled from it. After the 6-12 minutes of our mind-expanding hallucinatory trip are up, we’re just as dead as the most hopeless of atheists lament. Basically, we’re given something along the lines of one hell of an acid trip as a little going-away party.
The substance DMT is illegal, as its extremely potent and sometimes taken as a recreational psilocybin, similar to LSD, Mescaline and Mushrooms, save for the fact that unlike those aforementioned drugs it is made out of human DNA. The experience is often described as that of travelling through a tunnel and entering another realm or dimension, referred to as the Dome by frequent users. When ingested in large enough quantities, the substance makes you see a pulsating halation above you, sometimes arranged in a complex, Mandala-like configuration. It is at this point that you cross through some sort of mental barrier and enter this Dome, a brightly colored and throbbing underground undulating in a ubiquitous orgasm of exploding cosmic consciousness. This is all pure hallucination, visuals created solely in the mind rather than a surreal distortion of real-life images.
It’s easy to be an atheist in conversation, around other people. The tricky thing is to remain an atheist when you’re alone, lying in bed at night. Let alone your deathbed.
Whatever dying may mean, we go it alone – just like living. Alone in our thoughts, alone in our feelings, alone in our human journey, and if we’re very, very lucky, we may find a few people to latch onto. We talk to these people, and these people talk to us, and we all try to communicate our thoughts and feelings and human journey with one another. Sometimes successfully. Sometimes disastrously.
But then we all say goodbye to one another, and recede back into the infinite privacy of our own minds. As far as I know, that’s the end of it.
Everything is a mystery, and will remain a mystery, unsolved by man even after he’s extinguished, unspoken by nature even after it fades, and neither the living nor the dead will have so much as a jagged scribble on the prison wall saying “Wally Was Here.”
It’s a shame, too – I guess I won’t be going to Miami after all.
Wally has passed away. In other words, he has died. Cardiac arrest. I’m still alive, though. The funeral is today; we’re doing one of those outside cemetery burials instead of the open casket chapel crap. Better that way. His Will specifically requested a natural burial, but I thought he should be cremated. I’m not fond of the idea of him rotting away underground until the worms come through the coffin to nibble at his eye sockets. Then again, I’m not fond of the idea of his body being reduced to a stack of ashes in a jar. In fact, I’m not fond of the idea of him being dead altogether, so I suppose there’s no pleasant option.
After the funeral service all Wally’s relatives, including me, will sit Shiva in our daughter’s house. For those who don’t know, this is a Jewish tradition in which a bunch of people in the agony of mourning are forced to sit in a room for an entire week. I will be wearing all black to both ceremonies, and a veil.
Wally has died. Wally is dead. Wally is no longer with us – the living folk, that is. He’s not here, or anywhere, anymore.
It’s funny that the five stages of grief leave out sadness. I believe there is no sadness more pure and profound and hopeless than grief. Plain old depression is little more than dressed-up self-absorption – never a luxury I could afford.
I think there are six stages of grief, not five: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and denial once more. No grief can be overcome without a touch of denial. That pain, that unbearable and overpowering pain we feel right after a loved one has died – maybe that’s the pain of confronted truth. Maybe we eventually realize that if we have any chance of getting along in life, we have to ignore the throbbing ache and the empty void of people gone forever, and so we pull ourselves up and continue our work, whatever it may entail. But maybe we know deep down in the darker part of our hearts that the pain we felt while grieving was perfectly reasonable, and should be felt all the time but mustn’t. All of our friends will be gone, and all of our family, and not to mention us, and any joy or love or beauty we have had the privilege to feel will be lost and rendered meaningless in the grand and vacant scope of it all. There is no healing, only compartmentalization.
Again, excuse me for being morbid. Death can bring that out in someone, especially someone like me, who’s very much within its reach. Dying is no longer a hypothetical for me. It never was, I guess.
In all honesty, I never got to know Wally all that well – it’s surprisingly easy not to know someone after living with them for more than three quarters of your life. Let me tell you, it’s amazing how much you can know about a person just from looking into their eyes, but it’s also amazing how little.
Since my late twenties I’ve been studying him, in one form or another, analyzing and evaluating him as a natural result of being with him – but he still basically eludes me. Not that he’s this secretive, mysterious man or anything. I just can’t figure out how much of him is like, or unlike, me.
I may not really “know” him, but I can take a better guess than most people. I understand him, at least. I’ve seen him in all his colors, shapes and sizes. I know how self-conscious he always was when he gets his monthly haircut. I know how he used to complain about making his bed when he was little, because he thought it was pointless. I know that he had real thoughts and real feelings that weren’t any less real than mine.
This is an important thing to acknowledge about the people you love, because love is basically the heartfelt recognition of another person’s humanity.
When two people understand each other, love’s inevitable. People usually view each other in a reductive light, and except in rare cases we only ever see a vague outline of the essence and complexities of other human beings.
The overarching goal of nearly everyone is to have others see us as we see ourselves. Sometimes, a desire for them to see us as we would like to see ourselves seeps into the original, wholesome desire, and corrupts it. We must watch out for that. But if we can achieve our original goal, the goal to be seen without filters or misconceptions, the results are extraordinary. They’re called L.O.V.E.
There’s a great misunderstanding between all people, about each other. There is no harmony. All things are discordant with one another. Whatever God there may be He has not made the things he created compatible or congruent or with any kind of elegantly coordinated pattern or scheme. That’s up to us.
I think about all this, in less eloquent and preachy terms, as I get ready for the funeral in my bathroom. This means putting on a dark red shade of lipstick and applying blush to my cheeks. I’m not sure why a widow like me feels the need to look pretty at a funeral – maybe it’s because we want our husbands to see from up there what they’re missing down here. But the truth is that there probably isn’t any “up there,” and even if there is Wally sure as hell wouldn’t take time out of his heaven-schedule to watch his own funeral service through the clouds. A bunch of people who haven’t gathered together in his honor since his Bar Mitzvah reading him postmortem lullabies at a black tie event.
I drive over to Pinelawn memorial park. My parallel parking skills are rusty because Wally usually does the driving, but I manage to squeeze into an empty space in the line of cars blocking up the sidewalk, all for my husband.
The rabbi gives a quick eulogy, even though he never knew the man. “We are here to commemorate the passing of Wallace Caspi,” he says. I can’t for the life of me understand why he had to call him Wallace, just on account of his death. When Wally was alive, everyone called him Wally. This makes me madder than it should. Everyone is yapping to me about their condolences, but all of it, all the nostalgic speeches and vocalizations of grief are nothing but one big song underscoring my misery. Everybody around me is the singer, and my pain is the instrument, and both are harmonizing to create a god-awful melody. I’ve got a permanent long face, resigned, impenetrable, cold as a cadaver, with a thousand-yard stare stitched firmly onto it.
Then Wally’s casket is lowered into a hole in the ground. I’m leaving him alone in there, and it’s torture to watch. I want to get in there with him. I want to jump in and lie next to his sarcophagus, and we can both have shovels pour dirt on our bodies, covering us up till we’re good and submerged.
Samuel Levy is an eighteen-year-old fiction writer, filmmaker and poet who lives in Larchmont, New York. He is a Freshman at Emerson College with a major in Visual Media Arts. Sam has completed a book of collected poems and is currently working on a novel, both of which he hopes to publish; he has also won two Gold Key awards and six Honorable Mentions from the Hudson-to-Housatanic Scholastic Writing Awards for his short stories and poetry, respectively. As a writer and director, Sam has made several short films that have been selected and screened at over ten international festivals.