Now That Time Has Run Out
Time is the main topic on a funeral day: the quality of it spent, its scarcity, the odd way it behaves.
The sitting and waiting for the next necessary action — a funeral day is un-busy, we forget that part. "Can I just run back to grab –" Yes. Now that time has run out, somehow we have all of it in the world.
I didn't know Hilly very long, but he's one of those people you find yourself in step with on sight, no stride adjustment necessary. "Is it just me, or –" No. Now, there is a space where the ear we muttered into used to go. Across the street from a once-mighty church with boards for eyes, Hilly is at the front of the room, a well-loved toy in a suit that is as usual in these cases too big across the shoulders despite the valorous pinning efforts of the men with dark grey voices. The Velveteen Hilly, but in reverse, loved and now somehow not quite real.
We take our seats in the class-clown row. It is a hallowed place, to chronicle the best Hilly stories with big arms and elastic cringing. It's where he'd sit, we hope.
Jake takes the podium. "I'm Jake," he says, "and Hilly and I are best friends." The precise and gentle emphasis on "best" holds every companionable bike ride that ever was, every hour lolled looking at clouds or catalogs, all the made-up words and terrible trips and church giggles. He's very British about breaking our hearts into a thousand little sharp bits, Jake is, but break them he does.
Then there is an empty hour. Dirk and I go home and pretend there isn't a hole we may fall into while eating sandwiches, before we go to the Hillyhaus. Mrs. Hilly's tiny, fiercely polite father presides over the cold cuts. Dogs and cousins mill about, and in the pictures on every surface, Hilly is victorious, Hilly is content, Hilly is enjoying a sparkler at our wedding with toothy glee. Hilly is.
Then it's night, though only minutes seemed to pass, and I will look for Hilly where I can sometimes find my missed, in the dreams about unknown wings and secret doors. I can't conjure them, but sometimes they come to these shady rooms, my grandmother in all her ages, my aunts, Little Joe, Van who spoke to me like a fellow Mason even when I was nine. I want them to tell me where to go next, or how to follow them; they never do, but it's nice to see them again.
My head is a noisy spillway of tears and pinot. I get in bed and pet a cat and hope for hidden houses when I fall asleep, and when I wake up, my own Hilly has sent me pictures of her hair.
"Is it just me?" No. Never has been.
(Thanks, Nation. Thanks, Hilly.)
Tags: September 11th