tragedy of the dead is that they cannot cry. They may laugh, despite having no
lungs. They may speak, despite having no vocal cords. They may do many things
that should not be possible without physical bodies. But the creation, the
excretion of tears is impossible in their non-corporeal form. Jonathan has been
dead for fifteen years but he has never felt this dysfunction more acutely than
at Rosita’s funeral.
shades gather by her grave at midnight to mourn her passing. The scent of
memorial flowers reaches only Rosita, the single living person in the cemetery.
Only she feels the chill of the wind like a welcome home. It has been three
days since she passed, and she returns to allow them to pay their respects.
Jonathan whispers into Troy’s ear: “I don’t remember the last thing I said to
were gonna go trick-or-treating next week,” says Troy. “Just watch the kids, ya
know? Our one night out a year.”
guess she can go herself now,” says Jonathan. He only knew her in passing, but
she was a part of this community, this family of spirits who accepted him more
than his own family. Those he thought of as friends in life were only
acquaintances in comparison. Even the one friend who died, and Jonathan was
able to cry for him. That is, after all, what one does at a funeral. Troy, a
young man but an old soul, has been around almost as long as Rosita and has
attended many funerals. He needs no tears to mourn his friend because he knows
his grief to be real. He will be giving the eulogy in a moment.
gets easier. Life, death, life again. Transitions, right? Always leavin’ people
is surrounded by those who loved Rosita more than he, and their grief emanates
like a strong perfume. This invisible miasma contains every story from every
shade, every connection they made with her that he did not. It seeps into him,
artificial, and he suddenly cannot understand all the things he will never get
to do with Rosita. She will never direct him to the wrong gravestone, either on
purpose or because she simply isn’t paying attention. She will never describe
to him in graphic detail the circumstances of her death, but with added puns.
She will never say, “Hey, Jonathan, you know that star’s been dead longer than
me?” That is something she once told Troy.
stands by her gravestone, the moonlight illuminating her light brown skin
rather than passing through it. New flesh for a new life. He should be happy
for her Second Chance. She’s going to a better place, the others say, but deep
down they fear a Second Chance of their own. To be pulled from one state of
existence to another? Once is enough for a lifetime. Jonathan doesn’t want to
return, not after only fifteen years. You can’t always get what you want, in
life or in death.
does not want this grief inside him. He has not earned it. But he cannot force
it out through his tears, as he could when he was alive. He watched a movie
whose name has faded from his memory, a movie that made him sob so strongly he
couldn’t read the credits. It felt good, that release, those false emotions.
False emotions plague him once again, and he wants them to be real, or get out.
neither of these options will truly resolve his conflict. Although he does not
comprehend how much Rosita mattered--matters--to him, he cannot appropriate
others’ feelings. Nor can he be without his own. To have no feelings would be
disrespectful to her.
begins his eulogy, and he delivers it straight to Rosita, though she cannot
hear him. Having crossed the border, she has severed their line of
communication. She is no longer one of them, and even though it was not by her
choice, Jonathan mildly resents her for it. For leaving them. The second chance
he wants is to know her like Troy does. To have done the things he will never
do. He misses most of what Troy is saying as he struggles to find a memory to
induce impossible tears.
then Rosita speaks in the middle of Troy’s eulogy. She cannot see or hear him so
she has no idea.
I think you can hear me. We could hear the living before, so if I…count now,
hey.” She scans the graveyard, unwittingly locking gazes with so many shades,
including Jonathan. “I’m going to miss you guys. Really miss you. I’ll come
visit when I can, okay?” Rosita chokes on the last word, a feeling she has not
experienced in over a hundred years.
isn’t sure whether she’s finished. He wants to continue his remembrance, his
futile praise of her that he should have given when she was dead.
find me next week. I’ll find us some kids to follow, somehow.” Tears form in
her eyes, and she wipes them away, looks at her damp fingers. “It shouldn’t
have been me. I didn’t want this.”
face shimmers as a century of loss pours out. She cried coming into the world
and she cries now as she returns to it. This time, however, she knows what she
is leaving behind. Each tear is for one of them, thinks Jonathan. He chooses
one, watches it roll down her nose, past her newly reddened lips, and fall to
the earth. That is his tear. He traces its path down his own face, forging a
new connection between him and his friend.
day, if he ever gets his Second Chance, he will cry for Rosita, as she cried