Julian was having far too much fun, I could tell, even though the casket was closed.
“Yes…thank you…” I could hear him, standing somewhere nearby, murmuring broken replies to a long string of so sorrys and what-a-shames. “…yes. She was…”
Here, he actually broke off, and I heard sniffling.
What a ham.
Other than that, I thought it was a nice funeral. Surprising turn-out, really–people from the University came, which I hadn’t expected. I’d always liked my professors, but I hadn’t realized the feeling was mutual.
Then I heard it–his voice.
It was quiet, so I couldn’t make it out, but I knew that low tone. I’d heard it in my ear too many times, when he’d pause behind me, ask what I was reading this time, never too close. He was always so appropriate…even though I’d given him every opportunity not to be.
“Anne…” Oh, no…no, please don’t do this, please don’t make a coffin-side confession. I’m trapped in here and it’s way too late, for both of us. “I…”
For a heartbeat–his, anyway–it’s quiet. I hear a long breath being drawn in and let out slowly, like the night I went to his office and asked if he’d like me to close the door, and we both knew I wasn’t there to talk about my thesis.
Then footsteps, and I assume the line of mourners has resumed its gloomy procession. If I could, I’d throw the lid wide open, run over…and slap the hell out of him, because he still can’t say it, even when I’m dead.
How much time did we waste?
It drags on. I’m miserable in here. It’s finally hit me, how many people I actually know, and sure, everybody’s saddest at the funeral, but I’m not sure I realized what it would mean to be dead. Earlier, before we got started, Julian and Abbey were standing by the coffin with the priest, discussing music.
“She wanted Fairy Tale of New York.” Poor Abbey–she sounded like she had a head cold, but she was soldiering on.
“She would.” Julian must’ve realized how flippant he sounded, so he cleared his throat–probably dabbed his eyes too, the bastard. “Should we…?”
“I don’t know.” And then, to my shock Abbey–solid, reliable, unsentimental Abbey–was actually sobbing, the heavy kind where it’s hard to catch your breath, and I heard murmurs as the priest and Julian tried to calm her down.
I wanted to cry myself, then.
Finally, after what feels like a week, it’s over. We’re done. They carry me out to the cemetary, the priest says a few words–not too many, and I suspect that’s Julian’s doing again–and they leave.
It’s dark–well it was dark before, too, not like they put airholes in these things. But it’s quiet, and that makes it seem darker, somehow. I had to listen while each shovel-full of dirt hit the lid, and every thud got fainter and further away, and I could almost feel the weight of all that dirt pressing down on me.
Time passes. I wonder how long I’ve been down here. I wonder if it’s possible to fall asleep, down here in the dark, or if I’ll just stay awake, forever, not hearing or seeing or doing anything ever again. Nothing to do but think back on my life.
I’m about to try screaming, just for the fun of it, when I hear the sound of something hitting the earth up above–rhythmic, steady, getting louder and nearer.
It takes time. I guess, to be fair, they buried me pretty deep. But eventually I hear a thud–heavy, loud, right on top of me, like two boots landing on the lid, which I suppose they did. I hear a muffled curse, then the sound of splintered wood.
The lid creaks open. Julian has wedged himself back into the walls of the hole, because there’s nowhere to stand, really.
I sit up. “Took you long enough.”
“Yes, well, you have an annoying number of devoted friends,” he said. “All of whom wanted me to stay and drink because I shouldn’t be alone tonight.”
“You shouldn’t have been such a drama queen at the funeral, then.” I look up. “How do we get out of here?”
“I…” His face falls. “I didn’t think of that.”
Eventually, he boosts me up and out, and I reach down and give him a hand. We wipe the mud off as best we can.
“He was there.” Julian is, for once, trying to be sensitive, but I wish he’d just shut up.
“I heard.” I don’t want to talk about him right now. It’s not like I’ll ever see him again–
Julian drops his shovel into the hole, where it clatters. We both look up.
He’s standing there, with flowers, which is nice…but he’s staring at me, who’s supposed to be dead.
“Oh boy.” I sigh. “You might want to sit down for this, Professor.”