Sorry I Dressed Down

I'm at the funeral of a relative, one I can't ever remember meeting. He was my mom's cousin's son, but I don't know what that is to me. His name is-- was-- Michael, I think, or Ryan. He was nineteen, born the same year as me, the same age as three or four of my very best friends, before he crashed his car and smashed his brains out. His friends will be here, all dressed up and terribly sad, and I'm only in black jeans, because my parents said I didn't need to change.

I feel disrespectful. I feel cruel, for being here, for not dressing up, for not being sad. I wonder if he'd want for me to wear black. I wonder if he would have cared if I was sad. I wonder if he would have wanted for me to be there at all.

I don't know. I can't even make a reasonable approximation.

All I know is that I'm not dressed up, in Chuck Taylors and a thick black band bracelet and red striped sweater, and his other side of the family are all in dress shirts and stilettos and statement necklaces.

I went to two parties before this-- a birthday and a graduation-- and I'm going to have a Skype date with a friend later tonight, and the world is still turning, and his best friends are going to be here, feeling destitute.

I should have dressed up, is all.

I hope people dress up at my funeral. I hope people wear black. I hope only people come who really knew me.

We stood in the hallway outside the viewing room for a long time, because it didn't feel right to go in. I wonder if he would have wanted us to go in. Maybe he would have wanted us to leave.

I wouldn't want people to just stand in the hallway, my body in the other room alone. That would be awful. I'd rather them come, look, and leave, or else just leave.

This kid's friends are going to be here soon.

I walked around and looked at his pictures. He looked like he was funny, personable. He wore one of those brown belts that boys never tie up all the way, the ones where the tails hang down against their baggy blue jeans. There's a slideshow going, with pictures of him all throughout his life. He's got red hair, like my kid cousin Grace. There's a picture of him opening Pokemon Blue, which was my favorite-- a picture of him playing an N64, like I did with my brothers. I wonder if all these pictures are from his senior slideshow, which only would have been a few months old. It's ten minutes until his friends start arriving.

I don't want to be here when they show up, that's all. I don't want to stare intrusively when they see his school picture from the year they met him.

His casket is closed, a picture of his face near what I guess is the head of the huge wooden box. His accident was bad. It's not open, the casket. The picture is a school photo-- I imagine him sitting down on the stool, smiling when they told him to, the bright flash, and him standing up and moving on. Senior year. Pictures are the last of his worries.

I think about the girls he probably dated.

I think about his childhood best friends, the ones he probably grew apart from.

I wonder how tall he was. I wonder what he liked to do. I wonder what music he liked to listen to. I wonder what his favorite video game was.

I don't want to be here.

I'm not wearing enough black.

Everyone wants to know why I'm writing, what I'm saying. I just tell them I would like to leave. I don't want to be here at six, when his best friends come, when his girlfriend does, or the girl who had a crush on him.

I hope when I die they don't have the service in a funeral home. It's obscene. It's a business built on death. There are partitions in the walls, ready to chop the room in half, ready to have four or six or eight funerals all going on at once. I want my ceremony in a church. I want people to wear black.

There's a cross on his coffin. I wonder if it meant to him as much as the Hollister seagull on his shirt in his senior picture, or more-- or less. I wonder what it meant to him.

I should have changed into something more appropriate.

It's six now.

I need to leave. I feel like I'm intruding. I want to leave.

"This kid was your age," my dad says. It was all he had said since we got there.

"Six months older than me," I agree.

"Yeah," he says, and I start to cry.

The End

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