“Shallow graves for shallow hearts.
For pick-me-ups and fall-aparts.
For promises that never started right.”
-“No Place Like Home ” by Marianas Trench
The urn in Rob’s hands felt weighted with lead; carrying it into the woods was like carrying his own coffin. Looking at the others, he could tell they felt the same. Sam was openly crying, even through his stoic facade, and the twins had never looked so similar, so muted, hands clasped in grief. The forest was lush, as magical as always. Green everywhere, peeping from leaves and grinning around corners, carpeting their path, forwards and yet backwards. It was cloudy, and mist curled around the mocha trunks. Even the birds were silent, amidst the explosions of blues and greens and grays, and Rob could see squirrels tucked into their holes, just watching.
He wished anger could paint the land, make him feel bright, alive, present, real. Reality had been cremated, too. The fact of death had slapped Rob in the face, and instead of waking him up, it had put him out. Snuffed out the candle. Whatever he tried to call it, Evan would have said it better, with his stupid fancy word-of-the-day, and now the simile was too much like the fact, except worse, because candles could be relit, and now Rob was crying, and his crying was not a silent beast. It was ugly and heaving, involving an amalgamation of snot and tears and noises only true pain can produce. He was kneeling in the moss, twins beside, Sam behind, Ev-no, the ashes- tucked safely between his knees, and the ceramic was tearstained.
At some point, he stopped shaking, and became conscious that the tree was ahead. Rob focused only on the roots, not needing to see the details his subconscious masochistically provided- the rope ladder, the little house with a cheerful candle burning in the cheerful window, the tire swing, the hollow of the tree where Evan had always put out nuts for the squirrels until their furry friends were invading every corner of the treehouse. His feet were moving, and his mind had evacuated itself to a place it couldn’t be touched, a place where Evan could come sailing down from a nearby tree, laughing like a delighted little pixie at the fright he had given them all. Somehow, Rob’s hands helped Sam up onto the ladder, and somehow the twins followed, and somehow the urn was passed up, and somehow Rob was following. And the door of the house opened, and the urn was placed where Evan sat- where was Evan?- and Sam was choking solemnly, “I call this meeting to order.”
Reality roared back in. Rob determined to hate it- why would he need to think during his best friend’s funeral?- but Sam was reading the words that had always snapped the world into place, even when it seemed fragmented beyond repair, back when Evan had given them a crooked smile and a solution. Later, after he had cried himself out (hundreds of times), Rob’s last watery smile was in gratitude for the final moments Evan had made him alive: his ashes sliding between his fingers and the loopy handwriting in his journal wet with tears.
I’m waiting on tenterhooks for The Raven King, and I just watched Dead Poets Society, both of which inspired this story. Anybody else dying of anticipation? Have you seen Dead Poets Society? What do you think? Tell me below!