Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crashing Death.

Crashing Death.

Dead men don’t talk. Well they can’t talk or eat, or for that matter anything else a living breathing person can do. Least of all object to my presence here today. They don’t have a need for possession or prosperity. Dead fellows really don’t have the right to object to the life that they left behind. Certainly can’t stop me from enjoying this succulent chicken breast sautéed in Granny’s own special sauce that's been handed down. Not my Granny anyhow. And he certainly can’t stop me from a second helping of this exquisite piece of tri-tip resting right next to the fluffiest mashed potatoes. There can’t be a buffet this divine in the afterlife. No dead man here. Standing up. Questioning my motives. As far as the eye can see there’s a hundred or more of this fine southern gentleman’s family and friends gathered here to see this fellow off into the sweet hereafter. Ahem, along with yours truly. All you have to contend with is the relatives. Don’t get me wrong I’m not an insensitive ass, well not by most people’s standards. I know when to give my condolences, show respects and when to shut the hell up. Besides if it were my funeral I’d welcome anyone and everyone to the party.

How does one go about attending funerals with the frequent dedication of working man? I will warn you it’s not something you might fall into lightly without consideration. Chances are you will meet more than one of these people again. It’s something that you may find yourself having to work at. Getting invited to a funeral requires a little more finesse than other occasions. Not like a wedding where everyone is welcome. Unless you are the Ex of the bride or groom. Funerals on the other hand are quite selective. It’s a hit or miss situation. Sometimes 2nd cousins are present when a sibling is not. Trick of the trade is find two people that both agree to knowing you. This shouldn’t be hard, most people are ten sheets gone in mourning and like at a bar they will pass around the introductions as your new best friend. While moving around the room, make certain you’re the sober friend and pay ample respects. A fine toast to the departed can seal the deal. Once you’re in, it’s golden. Month after month you’ll be remembered for the next big send-off.

I’m watching the buffet line crawl at a snail’s pace while making small talk with Grandpa Joe. Denny is back in line for second’s and I shouldn’t be surprised as he always manages to find a way to draw more attention than necessary. Amateur move. This is Denny’s fourth funeral with me and already he’s sticking out like a sore thumb. Laughing too loud, knocking over vases and getting seconds at the buffet. It’s not all lost. Looks like the deceased had a little sister and right now she’s thinks Denny is being cute. From where I’m standing I can see Miss Abigail in giggles as she watches Denny. He dances from foot to foot with his oversized behind waving about as he pillages the buffet table. Grandpa Joe is blinder than a mole set out in the bright sun and is clearly missing the show. A loud crashing sound reverberates. Denny drops his plate. Its shattering sends the room into a silent hush. Before I can excuse myself to intervene, Miss Abby has already walked over to help. She’s is still in giggles. Denny bright red by the time I reach the scene. The room returns to the quiet roar.

“So, how did you know my brother?” the petite girl questions Denny while cleaning up the remnants of glass. In one simple response he could blow this for us both. Good thing I’ve done my homework and mingled among the guests. Carefully networking within the collective I’d gathered a far share of personal stories and anecdotes. All to ensure the personalization of any response prompted. Of course Denny just stands there and smiles at the girl.

Maximillian Page. Son. Brother. Avid Outdoorsman. Attorney at law. One of the youngest in his class to pass the bar at 26. Worked pro-bono on a handful of civil rights cases in the last years of his career. Retired at the young age of 35 from a lucrative law firm to pursue more artistic passions just months before his death. His pursuit was to become the next literary John Grisham. His parents didn’t approve of his artistic pursuits but accepted his choice. And although he wasn’t an openly homosexual man, his partner of five years, was in attendance at the funeral. Another choice his parents could only accept. Kid sister was currently attending Yale, like big brother, as a freshman and knew very little of her brother outside of the family. Seems that the parent’s disapproval limited the amount of time she spent with Max; which was mostly restricted to spring vacation and a couple of weeks during the summer each year. Despite his shortcomings, the family seemed to idolize and adore the man that died.

“We went to Yale together,” I intercede. “Yeah it’s been a few years since we've seen him, but Denny and I went to school with your brother.” Firmly I rest my hand on Den’s shoulder and smile at the young lady. She seems content with my answer.

“So… Did you two know he was gay? Or are you gay?” she blurts out with the audacity of a teenager. “Oh my gawd! You two... Are - A - Couple! No way!” Pausing. She blushes almost as red as Denny. “Oh. Sorry I’m being too loud. Max. He always said I had the tact of an elephant stomping around on a glass floor.”

“It’s ok. We-we-we… We actually,” Thinking quickly I look at Denny for a minute to get the green light on this. He shakes his head. “We actually don’t want anyone to know. Shhh!” I gesture a quiet motion across my lips and wink at her. “But we are both,” as I jab Denny with my arm, “old friends of your brother.” Smiling with the approval of a cat that’s just eaten the fattest canary, Miss Abby leaves us.

“What the hell was that?” Denny hisses as starts to raise his robust arms and wave them at me. Reaching out to stop the scene before it starts I smile and whisper back through my teeth.

“What the hell do you mean, ‘what the hell was that’? I just saved your ass. Now shut up and don’t fuck up anymore or we won’t be asked back for Grandpa Joe’s untimely demise. And I like that old coot, he’s a funny fellow.”

Now it doesn’t take much to get thrown out of a house, a party, or any other type of social event. Pretty much overstay your welcome, piss off the host and other guests, or just plain show up uninvited. Certainly you can imagine it doesn’t really take much to get tossed from a funeral. Bereaved or not, the family of the deceased don’t take too kindly to con artists. I wouldn’t call me a con artist. I’m actually not trying to get anything out of this. Don’t get me wrong the food, the drinks and the company are all fine perks, but not a motivating factor. Why work so incredibly hard to become a part of this then? Maybe a sense of belonging. My mortal need to be a part of something larger than myself. A celebration of life through death and I’m a part of it. Honestly, I don’t know sometimes. It’s just when they ask me back I can’t help but somehow feel important. Certainly if the dead man can’t object to that, you can’t either. They need me here and I need to be here.

Eyes shift around the room as Denny and I walk back towards our table. Slowly taking our seats the room seems to be alive with whispers and pointing fingers. Missy Abby is in the corner talking to Grandpa Joe, who has now pulled out his spectacles to get a better view in our direction. The room is shifting and the candor of the guests is beginning to sour. The three other guests seated at our small table have immediately relocated to another after exchanged whispers from a small woman seated behind. My own paranoia sets in. It couldn’t be? Miss Abby wouldn’t. Her brother after all… What a bunch of homophobes! This poor man isn’t even cold in his grave and here they are mistreating a couple of his old homosexual friends. Although we really aren’t gay this is a horrible display. My responses aren’t always the calmest reactions, but if I’m getting tossed out, may as well go swinging.

Standing up slowly I reach down and grab my wine glass. Gently tapping the side I get ready to propose a toast. Typically you wait for a relative to lead this march of remembrance and solidarity. Right now, I’m going to have my say and be on my way. “Max Page was a fine man and excellent character of a human being. I am proud to have known him and stand by him as a homosexual.” Digging my own hole I continue as the mouths fall open. “It is through my own understanding of Max’s life that I am able to freely live my own. My partner and I are glad to be here today to celebrate this man. Despite the silent whispers and glaring eyes among unwelcoming guests we have sat for the last few hours silently. Enduring all this, to pay deep respects to our dear fallen comrade. The thought of a family so very close-minded in this day and age is completely…”

“No!” Miss Abby interrupts my grand speech and gesture of symbolic martyrdom. “That isn’t what the problem is at all. We all loved my brother and supported his lifestyle. You are guests in our home.” She pauses to catch her breath. “Look, the only reason everyone is pointing and making faces at you both is because your oaf of a friend broke the last dish left in my late grandma’s china set. It was an irreplaceable heirloom and the only thing my grandpa had left of her. I’ve been trying to tell everyone it was an accident so they wouldn’t throw you out. But if this is how you feel then… GET OUT!”

Slinking our way through the crowded room, ignoring whispers and avoiding staring eyes at all costs, Denny and I quietly find the exit. Silently we walk down the hall, out the front door and onto the front porch. Denny stops me on the porch. I reach down to get out a cigarette. Sheepishly he speaks, “I’m sorry I broke the dish. Next time I won’t be so clumsy.”

Take a drag. “Yeah, Den, next time, don’t’ be so clumsy.” Sigh. Another drag. Not that there’ll be another time. Not again. After the family objections. Not likely. After the nasty letters of intent. No way. After the word gets out. But if there is maybe I’ll remember when to shut the hell up.

Um? The working title on this was "Funeral Crashing." I can't completely go into the specifics of this except, it comes from a very funny story someone told me this last summer. Yes! Apparently I do know someone who does go around crashing funerals. Of course I've twisted it into a far worst scenario than it really is... The real life person isn't intentionally hitting up death gigs, or so I think. Anyhow, I wanted to give y'all something a little funny and different than usual. Enjoy?kisses. m.

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