This is an awkwardly long story. Please tread on lightly.
I put on my mask for today. Today was a day for family gatherings. Strange faces that have grown in years, people whom I’ve never met but for some reason their names seem familiar when I ask them. “Hi, I’m Yvette. Your cousin from your mother’s side. Actually, cousin thrice removed.” I had no idea what that meant but I was glad to shake her hand anyway.
I wore black, which was an occasional outfit for me since I lost my mother a decade ago. Bless her soul, and God bless the guy who likes to print t-shirts downtown for always supplying me with the best black shirt with screened photos. But today I wore a black dress. An LBD, as called by my female friends. I lacked the pearls and the coiffed hair on top and the skinny figure to look like Audrey Hepburn, which I think was what a few visiting women were aiming for. I don’t think they’d expect me to talk with all those pearls anyway.
An old woman grabbed hold of my hand as I walked away from the entrance. It was already my sister’s turn to speak to a group of people. Our aunt had carried a tray of biscuits and cookies and junk food donated by us and my aunt’s children to which a heap of people gathered around her to satisfy their appetite that afternoon.
I decided to sit next to an old colleague of interest. ‘Of interest’ because I only knew them from a seminar at work. I felt lost in the mix of words and arguments here and there. A few years ago I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know too well how to express my own when conversing with them. So, I sat with them for half an hour or so and felt myself drowning in a sea of thoughts. They must have forgotten I was sitting next to one of them until one guy looked to me and told me “And you, how are you feeling?”
I looked back at the man and I realized no one had asked me this the whole time I was here. He sat behind me and this group. I couldn’t help but move a quarter of my body from where I sat so I could look at his face. He was there. No one had told me he was coming.
There were about three people who realized I had been quiet the whole time I sat next to them. But I gestured them to not mind me and I asked the man to follow me outside the funeral parlor. He nodded.
This sounds completely strange and out of what might happen in a more realistic setting. But he did sit behind me, actually behind my former colleagues of interest and was listening intently to their conversations. As we stepped out of the parlor he asked again how I was. A cold chill crept up my nape and I told him I was feeling alright.
“Since I’m at a funeral then you might understand that I was lying. I’m not okay.”
He just nodded and put his palms inside both pockets of his jeans.
I took out a packet of Marlboro lights and asked if he wanted some. He shrugged and looked a bit surprised that I smoked. I lit it up and took a long drag.
“It’s strange to see you here.” he said, under the same charming tone he uses on me over a decade ago.
I struggled to erase the hint of anger from my face. “I expected to see you everyday since.”
Ten years is a long time for waiting. I thought that if given the chance that we would meet, in the middle of the street or as poetic as meeting in the park or a dark alley as you kiss some whore after a night’s work. I thought of these chances that whole decade. In and out. But none of these ever happened, consciously.
Putting yourself in that distant dream for ten years is, the hardest, the saddest thing for me. I’ve walked in and out of that possibility. But there was not a single opportunity.