There isn’t much point in fighting it – the inevitability of life will catch up with us before long. I will turn into my father, my sister will turn into our mother. We’ll drift apart, just as they did. We’ll drink ourselves to oblivion, gorge ourselves senseless and deliver ourselves to the devil before we’ve achieved our potential.
It’s all rather doom and gloom, of course, but that’s the nature of the business, when you work in the field I do. There’s not a lot of office chit-chat and we don’t often go for after-work drinks. We have a group chat, naturally, but it tends to be more focused on who’s picking up that day. The people I spend most of my day with don’t have a whole lot to say, anymore.
We’re pulling up once again, and despite the thousands of times I have done this, it never gets easier: the familiar lump in my throat that I swallow back down; the waver in my composure that, though fractional, is always there. It’s as natural as anything else in the world, but always feels unnatural; no matter how many times you’re a part of it, witnessing pain is something that you can’t shake. Harry slows the car down, maneuvering the cumbersome turns that the driveway takes with ease. Despite our size, we slide seamlessly towards the wave of the broken. It’s second nature, now.
Snaking behind us, the foreboding inky shadow lurks in the periphery as I step out of the car. It is always peaceful, here. We’re not far from the bypass, but the road noise fades into the background and, as though to greet us, a skylark song echoes out across the fields. I take my hat, set it upon my head, and breathe in. There is beauty in even the most sombre occasion.
Seventy-four steps. I hear the crunch of grit beneath my soles as I count each one. I know this moment intimately and yet, each time, it is new: new pain, new sorrow, new grief. Of course, there is always new hope, but that doesn’t tend to come at the business end. I’ve been told I must be cold, to do what I do; unfeeling, even. The reality is, I feel too much. I grieve for the lives I never knew.
On my seventy-forth step, I come to a halt. A sea of tears swims away before me as the congregation filter in. We are unmarred by time, by technology, by showmanship; as unchanged as death itself. And for a moment, calm envelops, as the pallbearers take up arms, and the inevitable comes that step closer – the pain, the sorrow, the grief, and soon, the hope. In the song of a skylark, the innocence of a grandchild, the dance of a melody; I have seen this view a thousand times and though it is never clear now, in the distance, somewhere ahead, lies hope.
A short story a day, throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic. By me, for you.
#wordsnotwars #fictionforfriends #proseforpals