Both Dustin and Terry Perez left through the doors of the main entrance carrying the files, computer, and birds out into the bright sunlight of the parking lot. Dustin was happy to see that Juan and Stan were already pushing one of the large green gravesite canopies over to a spot with a table and chairs that Steve was still setting up. He approached the scene, easing his way through a small crowd of people who were gathered near the entrance, to set his load down on the table.
“Thank you.” He muttered as Terry placed the birds behind one of the chairs.
“Oh, don’t bother!” The man said making a swatting gesture with his hands.
“Why don’t you go ahead and start telling me what your concerns are regarding your mother’s gravesite while I get myself organized here.” Dustin said as he flipped open his laptop.
The architect seated himself in a position which faced away from the building out towards the large sculpture of the angle. “I’m not really concerned about her gravesite at all.” He said as he casually crossed his legs. “She would have laughed and laughed about all of this if she were alive today. We would have joke about it and then she’d have invited me out for ice cream with her. She was like that, my mother.”
Carefully, Dustin thumbed through his files until he found the one on Mrs. Perez. Flipping it open he saw that she was buried almost five years ago. She would have been one of the last corpses that Steve’s father had handled. “I see here that she’s in a two plot lot with the one for your father being currently vacant, is that correct?”
“Yes.” The man answered bitterly. “Actually, that’s my plot now. My dad remarried about three years ago and gave it to me since I have AIDS.”
Dustin sat the file down looking up at the architect. “I’m sorry.” He said seriously.
“Oh good grief!” The man scoffed. “Don’t be! You can live forever these days with HIV. So long as I take my medication then I’m fine.”
“Well, I’m afraid that until I get written notice from your dad I can’t bury you in the plot next to your mother.” Dustin replied. “I’d love to make this as simple as I can for you so I’ll go back inside and get the paperwork for him to fill out once we’re done.”
The man shook his head defiantly. “I’m not speaking to that bastard.” He spat. “He can go off and be happy with his new wife for all I care. My mother was a saint!”
“Would you like me to send it directly to him?” Dustin asked looking down at the file again. “Is he still at this address?”
“Yes.” The man answered. He seemed to choke on the word as if it had left a bad taste in his mouth. “Him and that… woman are living in the same house where my mother use to live. I’m sure that she’s really loving all of the things that my mom did around there. I’m sure she loves her garden and the way that she put hooks up in the kitchen to hang all of the pots and pans.”
“So,” Dustin said picking up the file again and folding the pages back. “Do you want me to send your dad this letter granting you the right to be interred next to your mother?”
“Sure.” The architect shrugged. “I’m sure he’ll never fill it out but whatever… try that if you want to.”
Dustin took a pen from his pocket and made a note about the transfer on the ladies folder. “I’m sorry to hear that you and your father aren’t speaking but I’ll see to it that the paperwork gets to him.” He said. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
The man leaned forward rubbing his hands together. “My mother was very sick for a long time.” He said slowly. “She had breast cancer but we all thought that she would make it. My dad even told me that she would. He said that she was a strong lady and that there was nothing to be afraid of.”
Dustin nodded gravely.
“That’s why I went to Amsterdam.” He continued. “It was a good opportunity to go study design and architecture over there in Europe and my dad said that everything would be okay. He promised me that she wouldn’t die and then she died six months later.”
“Sometimes death comes even when it looks like things are going to be okay.” Dustin muttered prophetically. It was a standard line that he often used to help families deal with a sudden loss. He had a whole vocabulary of prepared euphemisms which he employed to deal with peoples raw emotions following the death of a loved one.
“But people don’t tell you that things are going to be okay when there’s a chance that they aren’t!” The man railed. “They don’t tell you to go ahead and leave the country when your mother is going to die six months later!”
Dustin sat the file down and approached the man putting his hand on his shoulder. “No one knows when someone else is going to die.” He said gently. “I’m sorry. How can I make your loss easier to deal with?”
“I want to see my mom.” The man said looking up at him. “This is like a second chance!”
“Now?” Dustin asked feeling a little uneasy.
“Yes now!” The architect replied, impatience lined the edges of his voice. “I couldn’t make it back home in time for her funeral. I never got a chance to see her again before she was buried. I want to see her now!”
“I’m afraid that I can’t allow that.” Dustin answered.
“Oh please!” The man said making a begging gesture with his hands. “The way that the ground just opened up over her grave it’s like she’s calling out to me, telling me to say goodbye in person so I can let her go.”
Dustin cleared his throat. “We could maybe hold another service.” He said dubiously. “I don’t think that it could be open casket because the body is so old but we could possibly use a picture if you have one.”
“I have pictures of my mom up all over my house!” The man sighed. “You don’t understand. I need to see her right now. I don’t care about all of that Bible thumping junk that goes along with a funeral. I just want to get a look at her corpse so I can get some sort of closure which I wasn’t allowed to have the first time around.”
“But there are laws against displaying a body that old.” Dustin argued. To be honest he wasn’t really sure if there were any rules against doing that or not but he assumed it to be the case because the alternative was just way too unseemly.
“She’s out there right now!” The man shrieked pointing towards the field where the crack lay. “I could just walk over there and get a look for myself if you won’t take me.”
“I’m not going to let you walk around there!” Dustin shot back. “You’ll get yourself killed!”
“I’m dying anyway!” The man quipped. “I’ve got AIDS remember?” He emphasized the word AIDS making it loud enough for everyone to hear.
“You’re fine!” Dustin said. “You told me yourself that you’re on medication and that you’re going to live forever!”
“Then I’ll stop taking it!” The man said as he pulled a bottle of pills from his pants pocket. Violently he threw them across the parking lot. “I don’t care anymore!”
“You can’t have it both ways.” Dustin spat motioning for Steve to go and get the pills. “You can’t be worried that a building is going to collapse on you and then kill yourself by throwing away your medication. You’re mother would have wanted you to live!”
The man erupted into tears.
Steve came up carrying the bottle. “Here you go man!” He said as he handed them to Dustin. “This is good stuff. If I wasn’t a reformed man I might have been inclined to take a few before giving them back.”
“What do you mean?” Dustin asked looking at the bottle.
“It’s Valium.” Steve said with a shrug. “It’s perfect for taking the edge off during crazy times like these.”
Dustin read the label. It was Valium. He handed the bottle back to the man.
“Okay.” He whispered kneeling down close to Mr. Perez so that he could hear. “If you go home, I will find your mother and call you back for a quick look once things die down. I’m not going to let you take pictures or have friends or sit around staring at her forever but I will let you have a peek if you’ll just leave and go home right now.”
The man looked at him with a fragile, wounded expression. “Do you mean it?” He asked.
“Yes.” Dustin answered. “Just know that the condition of the body may not be something that you want to see.”
“It doesn’t matter how rotten she is now.” The man replied. “I have to see my mother again.”