Familiar Blood

Monkeys mourn their dead. It's a fact. I saw a photograph in a nature magazine of two zookeepers who were carrying a dead monkey from its cage, and all the other monkeys there clustered against the bars and watched them with their mouths open. I think they must have been howling. I clipped that photo out of the page and put it on my dresser to remind me that being sad is just instinct and instinct is okay.

I stopped liking my father when I came back from college, and I think maybe the only reason I'm sad over his death may be because my body knows that there's one less heart pumping blood like mine now. That's one less person to multiply the number of people with genes like mine. I think my body may try to make me want that many more babies now that he's dead. I'll fight the feeling for as long as I can. If I get married and have children after all this fighting about it then mom will scold me about how if I had gotten it over with earlier dad could have died happy. I don't want to hear that. It might ruin the baby for me.

When I was a kid my father let me sit on his lap and watch television with him. We watched things like Seinfeld that mom would never have let me watch on my own. Sometimes we'd ride our bikes down the path behind the pharmacy or, if the weather was really nice, drive out to the nice beaches in Rhode Island and spend the day there. The problem was that eventually I grew up and realized that rude comedy and the occasional beach day don't make a man great, and things fell apart between us. Holidays were painful for the first few years until we figured out subtle tactics of avoidance that didn't upset mom. The funeral is tomorrow, and if anybody tries to talk to me about dad I'll only tell them about how things were before I wised up to the world. I'll wear navy blue instead of black and that will tell them everything else.

I think tomorrow I will stay late at the cemetery and watch as he is buried. You never see people actually getting buried. All most people ever see are men with shovels lingering quietly in the shadows, waiting for everyone to leave so they can pile dirt on the casket. I think if most people watched the burying they would cry when they heard the wood of the cheap coffin we bought crack under the pressure of six feet of earth. I should be okay. I don't want to know he's well preserved, just that he'll be in a dark and quiet pocket under well-packed soil, even if pieces of splintered pine are sticking in his face. He can't feel it anymore. He won't bleed. It's fine.