This is an excerpt from my novel Caroline. See the previous chapter here.
When mom looked at me sporting a fashionable bowtie she was delighted and asked me where I learned how to tie a tie. Of course I gave her an evasive smile and jammed myself into the car to embark on a trip to the cemetery. Of course Cupertino is a town that has a high cost-of-living, and apparently also a high cost-of-dying. Even buying a burial plot around there is more expensive than a place more out of the way, such as Gilroy. So we packed together in the car for a long journey which, depending on the traffic, takes more than an hour. But as we headed out for the highway Caroline did not cry; she withheld her tears for three weeks after her parent’s death, so there was no question that she could withhold her tears for the duration of the trip to the funeral.
Throughout the trip I couldn’t help but look at Caroline, especially since she was attired in Emily’s fancy yellow dress, the one with the puffy sleeves and frilly collar and hem. Her bare, delicate lower legs were poised in such a graceful manner, and the fact that she was wearing a thin veil of makeup made her especially beautiful that day. This time I couldn’t even pretend that I wasn’t constantly looking at her, staring at her for half of the ride. My attention towards her was broken only when we passed redwood forests, because I was constantly thinking that I must see the last glimpse of such majestic beauty before the progress of ‘civilization’ irrevocably destroys it. Caroline apparently enjoyed the attention I was giving her, she didn’t mind my blank stares and smiled slyly when my eyes were looking towards her instead of outside the car window. At times I noticed Caroline was glancing at me in her own evasive fashion, as though like me she had reasons to hide her true feelings towards me.
We arrived at the cemetery, indicated by a small sign by the side of the road reading “GATES OF PEACE Funeral Home and Wedding Services.” I thought that it was merely a typo on the sign but as we drove past the we we saw a couple, the man wearing a tuxedo and the woman wearing a white gown, on the lawn sliding rings on each other’s finger in front of a field of headstones.
“They’re having a wedding right on a cemetery,” I said, “isn’t that a little inauspicious?”
“Four weddings and a funeral,” Caroline responded playfully, then smiled sourly but still in a cheerful mood, “you’re not superstitious, are you?”
“Definitely not, my mother once took me and a bunch of my schoolmates to visit a cemetery on a Halloween night. I remembered it to be quite a boring experience, the grass was very well-manicured and the tombstones were nothing more than blocks of rock with names carved on them. I saw no cobwebs, creepy overhanging tree limbs or wandering ghosts of the dead. In fact I was rather disappointed by the mundaneness of visiting the cemetery by night, I might as well have been eating a piece of celery or slaughtering a pig, except it was even quieter.”
“Then why are you complaining about weddings taking place in cemeteries?”
“It’s mostly the symbolic meaning, what message are you sending reciting your vows in a field of corpses? That your relationship with your future spouse is about as dead as those people in the ground?”
Caroline laughed, the sound of which reverberated throughout the car and nearly broke the glass and almost blew out my ear drums.
“Are you okay back there, Caroline?” mom asked, thinking Caroline was screaming because she had cut herself.
“I’m perfectly fine,” Caroline said with a straight face looking at mom.
When mom’s attention switched back onto the road Caroline looked at me again with her playfully mischievous face.
After the car was parked I realized why a cemetery would be such a perfect place for a wedding. There is a chapel situated on the right of the cemetery where any type of religious service, be it wedding or funeral, could be held. The rolling hillside which is owned by the cemetery but is as of yet free of unsightly tombstones is a perfect place for putting on weddings. There were a few taking place that day. I watched the couple, with a rabbi by their side, having a wedding on top of a small hill as I walked towards the chapel.
We all entered the chapel and sat ourselves on the benches in the back; the funeral the proceeded ours hadn’t yet concluded, the body of an unknown stranger was still on the stage, and the organist was still playing a somber tune. Not soon after we had sat down four men in suits walk up to the stage and carried the casket out of the chapel, the entire crowd that seemed to fill the pews began to stand up but it seemed to take forever for everybody to file out of the building. At this point I was beginning to believe that the funeral for Uncle Cecil, and don’t even mention Aunt Dana, will last for eternities, considering the amount of time it took simply for people to enter and exit the chapel.
After everybody left mom walked up to the preacher and talked with him. Even though the chapel was dead silent and the acoustics was good, I couldn’t hear them because they spoke in such soft voices. Mom then asked us to raise our small butts off the benches and move up to the first row. The preacher stood back and yelled, “Crank up the music, Connor, we have another wooden box coming through.” Organ music quickly started to fill the chapel with a somber march, which quickly turned the mood of the entire chapel into one appropriate for a funeral. Six men carried a casket through the front door and onto the stage. The casket fell on the stage with a rather loud thump, the six men began massaging their arms, presumably because the casket was so heavy it strained their muscles.