This dress was supposed to be for a happy occasion.
It was a dress for a celebration, for smiles, for laughter, for too much alcohol and sweat-soaked fabric as you danced all night.
Now, as your mother pulls the zipper up to close it, you realize that that was never an option. It could have never been a dress for a happy occasion, not with how the black lace lies on top of the black fabric underneath. Not with how the delicate flowers weave themselves around your body. It would have always been a dress doomed for sadness.
It was still yours, after all.
At the last one of these occasions, you wore a suit. Not too tight-fitting and with a white dress shirt underneath. You remember the way that the little bug you wore around your neck sat between the opened buttons at the collar.
It had been easier then.
The grief settles on your shoulders like the straps of the dress do now, light and thin. It’s going to be a hot day and you can’t stand the thought of smelling of sweat in the church.
As you do your makeup, you think about the fact that you have only ever been in a church to sightsee. You think how your uncle Michael had pulled you into the choir in St Paul’s Cathedral, not because you were religious, but because you had an excellent view of the ceiling pieces from the back.
You remember thinking about how pompous they were. How angry you had gotten that the church had taken so much money from people in a time when they were starving.
You tell your friends that you don’t want to have a funeral in a church.
As you put the little twisted pieces of metal in your hair, you think about how he wouldn’t have wanted them there. You twist the last one into place anyway. He had never listened to you, about what you loved and liked, and your anger wells up before you shush it down.
Anger isn’t the emotion you’re supposed to be feeling. You’re supposed to be sad.
The sadness doesn’t come.
You take separate cars. Just in case your father wants to stay longer and you don’t object. You can’t imagine yourself staying longer than you have to.
It’s not the dead that you take the issue with. It’s the living, the ones that are breathing and smiling and feigning their love for you while you so very much know that it is fake. They don’t accept you, they don’t have to. You accept yourself, that’s enough.
You turn up the music on your phone, the earbuds a stark white contrast to your clothing.
The half-moon rests on one of your collar bones as you lean towards the window to stare out. It comforts you, the way the leather cord hugs your neck, the way the metal slowly warms to your skin.
It’s an anchor to the reality that your mind so desperately wants to escape, but your body has to endure.
It’s a reminder that there is more to this world than the crushing sadness of the church. That there is a light and there are smiles out there. That there is happiness.
You watch your grandmother cry, and your aunt and uncles. Even your cousins shed tears.
You shed tears as well, but you don’t know why.
Peer pressure maybe?
You’re forced to go with them afterwards, to watch as dirt gets piled onto the person that you last saw half a year ago.
You had a panic attack in the bathroom, you remember that now. He had looked at you with something so final in his eyes, staring you down as if he was trying to memorise every line of your face. You had wondered if he had kept the bug that you gave him. You didn’t ask, and that question will now go unanswered.
He probably didn’t know what it had meant to you, to give it up and hand it to him.
How could he?
Your hand goes into your hair and hits the cold metal of the hair bead.
You’ll be out of this cafe soon. You’ll be on your way home and then you’ll listen to music that you will never listen to again after that because it will be tainted by a day of such discomfort that it might never be comforting again.
Soon you’ll drive home, and you will see your dog’s face, a happy face, instead of the sad faces around you.
It will be over.
And all you wish for, as you sit in that cafe, at a table with people that would want you dead if they knew about who you are, is that no one will feel like you feel right now at your funeral.
You want people to smile, to rejoice. To share the embarrassing stories that they experienced with you.
You want them to reminisce about the stories you told together, about the ways you laughed together, about the ways you loved together.
You want the sadness to be absent, and you want smiles to rule the crowd, for you are not gone. Your energy has simply been converted to another place. You want to remind people that you loved them, that you cared for them, and that you will never be gone unless they forget the love that you carried for them.
And you don’t want that.
You never want them to forget just how much you loved them.
Because as you sit here, you don’t feel love. You just feel numb.