Monday, August 09, 2010
I remember once long ago, when you and I were still us. You asked me to come with you to an old cemetery to take pictures of graves that you could put on your bedroom wall, to hang beside old photos of Marilyn Monroe and your sketches of dragons. It was nearby, and you asked if I minded walking there with you instead of driving. You already knew the answer - I'd crawl to the moon for you. We arrived 10 minutes after we left your apartment, walking through the open gates and into the forest that grew around the older graves. We were the only people there, maybe not unusual for a weekday morning. We walked past huge gaudy crypts in the wealthy area, and then past hundreds of flat stones marking pauper’s deaths in the 30’s. We strolled silently, you walking up ahead like always. I liked to dawdle but I also couldn't let our distance grow too great so I hurried behind you, idly wondering why you walked with such purpose during our stroll, and why you hadn’t asked me to take your picture along the way, like you usually did. The sky was clear, and I enjoyed the sunlight on my face and the light summer wind blowing through the trees. I trotted along behind you, taking pictures of tombs with the camera you gave me for my birthday.
Then you stopped walking and stood still, your back to me, hugging yourself like you were freezing.
As I caught up to you I saw the tears on your face, and heard the hitching in your breath. I asked you why, and you pointed to the headstone. I saw only a few words before I wished I had been struck blind: She was seven years old when she left. Her mother shared your full name. And her father shared mine. You traced the letters on the headstone with your finger and turned away again, walking toward the exit gates. I then understood why you had brought me here, that this wasn’t the first time you had been at this grave site. And I realized that we would soon become strangers.