I’ve never owned an umbrella, it’s something my father was strictly against. “A man doesn’t need an umbrella” he’d say. It never made sense to me but I never used one either. I could use one now, the rain’s so damned cold. He also yelled at me when I would walk across graves when we visited his father, “It’s disrespectful to the dead”. This stuck with me too, but made sense.
I always think about him, my grandfather, whenever I find myself walking through a cemetery. I’ve been to my share of funerals, but I’ve found myself in front of his grave plaque more than any others. My father, sister, and I used to come on holidays and some bored Sundays, kneel over him for a few minutes, and leave for lunch. Sometimes I’d go by myself and stand for a few minutes. Never told my father. We never met, my grandfather and I; he died a year before I was born. When I was young my father would tell us tall tales about him, my grandmother would replace some of his myth with fact, but he still seemed larger than life to me. My mother, who didn’t get along with my father’s family, agreed that he was something special. They used to tell me I looked and acted like him: honorable, caring, sincere, generous. Maybe they hoped some of his traits would rub off on me if they kept repeating them, like my father’s aversion to keeping dry.
When I visited, I’d talk out loud to his gravestone about life, my problems, girls. I was never religious; never thought prayer was my key to his ear. Talking out loud to his silence helped me come up with answers. It was cheaper than silence from a therapist. Carefully walking between gravestones and the dead, I wonder how much I turned out to be like him; if anything. I don’t need to wonder, I know the answer.
“Ugly name.” I looked to Q, he’s silent.
Strange thing, seeing that name. What it meant, what life it lived. Looking at it releases every chain and boundary from my body. Changes everything. I feel empty.
I adjust my pea coat’s lapels and look behind me in the cold rain to Q. He reads the headstone, picks his brown eyes to me, and nods; he’s usually reserved. I’d kneel down but the freshly filled hole is mud; sticks to my shoes like glue. Like it’s trying to pull me underground and into the casket. Like I’m supposed to be in it. I am.
Beads of cold water trickle off my dangling hair and into the puddle reflecting the ugly name.
“Looks a bit crooked, no?” Rain favors the left edge of the stone, runs down the marble, and into the puddle.
“Looks about straight, sir.” He’s a few feet behind me standing on some poor soul’s head.
“Don’t stand there. It’s disrespectful.”
Q moves towards me; with each step his shoes come up with mud, covering more as he makes his way to my side. He’s trying to keep them as clean as possible, they look like they were polished today.
After a minute of bowing, I lift my head and motion to him for us to go.
“S’pose some people just aren’t meant to live.” I smirk at Q.
“Perhaps some people aren’t meant to die, sir.”
We make our way back to the car, careful not to disrupt the eternal sleep of any more tenants. Maybe we aren’t. Maybe there’re more empty holes like the one we just bowed to. Maybe the whole thing’s a sham.
Out of the rain, Q’s hazel eyes look into the rearview mirror to me before driving away.
“Forgive my curiosity, sir, but have you given thought to a new name?”
I shift in my seat, brushing some of the rain off my shoulders.
“I’ve got some ideas.”
We drive past the empty grave, out of the cemetery’s waist high gates, and onto a small muddied road that leaks out to asphalt. Last time, I was nothing like my grandfather; at least not like the traits those stories were meant to reinforce. He gave to people who had nothing, kept only what he, my grandmother, and my father needed. I keep taking. Identities, money, lives. I used to tell myself what I did was necessary. Repeated what was told to me; people like me were needed to keep the ball on our side of the court. The person told that bullshit is 6 feet under, even if I’m still stuck with the corpse. I can be more like him this go around: honorable, sincere.
“Your grandfather? An excellent choice, sir.”
I look out the window and watch the rain fall. The clouds suggest this storm isn’t going anywhere; the rain’s not going to stop anytime soon. I won’t be any more like him than I was last time, not with my life — lives. I can pretend. I do all of the time, just like the gravestone. That’s all this shit is anyway: an illusion. Fantasy.
“Maybe just keep the C.”
We’ve relocated since my death a year ago, security reasons, but I have a feeling we’re far from where we need to be. I have some time to think it over.