Laid to Rest
He was one of the "regulars." Frequenting this dreary place was something that brought a need to do some serious character studying for me. Of course, the fact that he was pretty attractive also heightened his interesting factor. He would stop at that certain spot and stare at it, that questioning in his eyes so very common in the others who would come here.
His seemed like a relatively common case. He needed answers so he would come here. But like the rest of them, he was misinformed. There were no answers here, just the silence.
However. What separated him from the rest was his composure. Or coolness. He never cried. Not once. He'd just stand there and stare down at the thing that was torturing him. He would never talk to the thing at his feet. He would never crouch down and ask, "Why? Why did you leave me?" He was so obviously distressed about that plaque on the ground, I wondered why he didn't cry. Why he didn't scream and yell and question like the others. Vocalizing ones pain was something that everyone had to do at some point.
No one would come with him to help him deal with the pain. No one would come to keep that thing company. Only him. My desire to go up to talk to him was so overwhelming that I had to clench my hands whenever he came in. But what could I do? This was someone who was so obviously over my head that I might as well attempt to quicken the growth of the trees that I planted.
People who came here didn't notice each other. So wrapped up in their pain, they ignored the others around them who could do well with some support. Occasionally they would turn and ask me, "Do you have someone precious to you?"
I would reply, "Of course."
And they would say, "I lost mine."
These euphemisms were doing nothing for their mental state. When you come here, it's not because you "lost" someone. Only fools looked for their loved ones here.
Blowing a frustrating peace of hair out of my eyes, I patted the earth down. This particular sapling would be the only one of its kind. It was a customary tree. I was surprised that my predecessor never thought to plant it. Though I would never see it full grown, it would grow. It's long branches would cover these particular slabs of stone. It's leaves would curtain them. Maybe a protective shield against the loneliness that they must feel.
I disliked this place. Not because of what it represented, but because of the controlled atmosphere. No tears. No laughter. Each individual slab of stone written in the same font, all spaced out equally. Every weed was picked. Every blade of grass was mowed. Yet, for all the conformism that it held, it was one of the most peaceful places I had ever encountered.
While I kneeled, I saw him enter the gates from afar, his lean, lone figure was distinct, even from a distance. Perhaps it was only for me. Only I was so aware of his existence. Or was there some person out there, outside those gates away from his silent suffering that was just as aware? And he, perhaps, was as aware of them. I inhaled through my nose and smelled that mustiness of upturned dirt.
After a final step, I propelled myself upward and strode away, to tend to the roses that grew near his particular resting place. Passing him to see the roses was something I usually did whenever he came around. I toyed with the idea of being known as the "Rose girl" to him. But that was stupid. He was quite obviously too wrapped up in other things to notice me. With my dirt stained uniform and wind tossed hair, I doubted that I'd ever catch his eye. But for some reason, that was ok for me. After all, I had my greens and my plants. He had his remorse.
Aphids. I glared at the roses, removed my gloves, stuck them in my back pocket, and headed towards the caretaker's house. When I got back to the roses, a mesh container full of lady bugs, he was still there, staring at the stone.
I put the case on the floor and unhooked the latch, a stream of red and black was released on the flowers. I crouched to see one last lady bug left in the container, unmoving. Sticking an ungloved finger in, I lifted it and put it on the dirt.
"Another dead," said a melancholy voice.
I didn't turn, sure my face was betraying my surprise. He was watching me… Why?
Maybe my crack was showing.
That would be embarrassing.
It was raining. My windbreaker served as adequate protection from the weather but when he entered with just a hoodless jacket, my first thought was idiot. But still. I headed towards the roses to check on them in the rain, hoping that they could stand it.
They were fine. As roses had survived the seasons without my coddling, I was unneeded except for fertilizer and aphid control.
I cast a surreptitious glance over at him, hair wet and plastered on his forehead. It didn't seem to bother him. My heart went out to him once again and I walked towards him, hand in my pocket.
Stopping next to him, my hand emerged with what it was searching for. I unfurled the umbrella and held it up. Looking down on the slab of stone that he came fore was something I had always wanted to do, but prevented myself from doing so out of respect.
In Memory Of:
My arm started to ache from holding up the umbrella. He was at least a head taller than me and it was an uncomfortable position. As if sensing my discomfort, he took the umbrella and held it over both of us, the rain pattering on its surface. It was silent for the sound of the wind and rain.
I squatted suddenly, my knees cracking. Stretching out a gloved hand, I traced her name. That elaborate cursive wouldn't be my choice for a six year old girl but who was I to say what font was more fitting.
"It's been four years," the man above me said.
I stayed silent and squatting, half hoping and half dreading that I was the first person he talked to about this.
"And I don't think it's ever going to stop hurting."
My eyes narrowed. "Of course it won't. And coming here every week and standing on her coffin isn't going to help numb it." I got up, held my hand out for my umbrella, and when I got it, walked away.
He didn't come back the next week. Or the one after that. But three weeks later had him trudging up the snow covered hill, bundled up with coat and scarf. I was sitting next to the weeping willow, watering with care. The sprinklers didn't reach that particular area.
When I saw him, I headed to the roses. They were cut short for the winter but I still had to give them the "flower food." Pulling the envelope out of one of my pockets, I ignored him. After I opened the envelope and mixed the pellets in it with water, I turned.
He was observing me; his eyes lingering on my face. They were filled with something that had never been there before. A mixture of interest and admiration. It made my face flame up.
He stalked towards me, his face serious. I subconsciously backed up and he stopped, looking confused. They he started again, backing me into the fence. Suddenly his face was right above mine, his eyes lit with determination. For the first time I that I saw him, he looked almost boyish. A little insecure underneath that set mind. Then he leaned down and pressed his lips to mine.
He tasted like snow. My arms rose to twine around his neck like a needy tomato plant. His hands went to my waist, touching gently, as if I would crumble if he pressed any harder. Then, unexpectedly, he pulled me against him, pressing my front to his.
When we parted for air, I was breathing hard. I buried my face in his chest, not wanting him to suddenly realize what he was doing and run away.
He lifted a shaking hand to my face and stroked my cheek, leaving a trail of tingles in its wake. He placed a kiss on my flushed forehead and said, "Thank you."
I smiled a little into his jacket and whispered, "You're welcome."