When your body wasted away and became nothing more than a carcass filled with cancer, we began the bureaucratic business of dealing with death. I never saw your body. I waited on the other side of an indifferent doorway while those stronger than me went to see what the disease had left behind. My sister walked back out and into my arms. She shook her head and set her jaw and looked like she would burn down the whole world if only she had enough gasoline to soak it in. Her eyes were filled, but her face was dry as our mother cried behind her. “That’s not your dad,” my mom choked out. I said nothing, and silently wished that I could get away with saying nothing for the rest of my life.
The consultation room was about as cheerful as a prison interrogation cell. I gripped my hands together under the metal table, wringing them, digging nails into soft flesh. I would be silent for a while longer and leave the particulars to the strong. If it was up to me I would’ve placed your body in the arms of the ocean and said fuck it to a funeral. No talk of God or better places, no caskets, no cremation. Just a black body slipping beneath the waves like an ebony skipping stone. But it wasn’t up to me, and so I sat with the walls threatening to swallow me whole and the lights humming accusations. The cement bricks said I should’ve saw your body before it was eaten by flames while the lights questioned how much I really loved you. The table, my only ally, hid the bloody crescents I was making in my palms, and I cried while a woman accustomed to grief gently discussed costs and technicalities. I never knew dying was so expensive.
We viewed urns. They all looked like they were made to hold the ashes of some rich and ancient relative, ornate glorified vases in a vain attempt to push beauty onto the barren plains of death. My lip curled up in disgust because this shit was stupid. A china dish with gold detailing wouldn’t make this better. The priciest piece wouldn’t make it okay to set my old man on some mantel forever. “I’ll give you some time to look around,” the woman said. Mom looked worried. I could see numbers rolling around in her mind. How much more did we need, who else could she call? She stood over the cheapest one, black with gold trim, nine inches high, and $900. Trina looked about as pissed as I was. “This shit is stupid,” she said. I agreed and asked why we needed one anyway. Your final resting place would be the Mississippi River, and your ashes would swim from Wisconsin to Louisiana. Mom told me to keep my voice down because spreading the dead is illegal, but I could see relief easing the creases along her eyes. “Is it really okay if we don’t have an urn?” she asked us. “Fuck the urn,” we said.
So instead they put you inside plastic bags; your six foot frame, your wiry arms, your square head, all of you except for your two false teeth, burned to ashes, double-bagged like a carnival goldfish, and sealed inside a small black box.