“They said his brother paid for the funeral.”
“Mmmmm, Yes they, would they’re good people, those Raven’s. So much done to them, and still they do the right thing.”
“Robert wouldn’t have wanted an extravaganza anyway, this is perfect, just a few of his close friends and family members.”
“It’s too bad Keith couldn’t be here though, brothers are brothers, and business should always take second place to family.”
“Really, don’t date yourself, I remember growing up, my father said he would miss my wedding if it was during his market season. His market was only downtown, Keith is in New Zealand”
These people bantering at a funeral, my best friend’s funeral, make me want to leave. Conversation carried on endlessly, gossip with only a pretext of sympathy. Already, I can plan out the entire conversation: start with the sympathy, mention how nice the service is, note how small it is, and how it was at the expense of Bob’s brother David, then the whispering would start. Casual at first, but always accompanied with a lighting up of the eyes, the real joy of the conversation.
Subdued talks of how good it is of David to do all this for Bob, considering all the bad Bob has done. That Bob, always perfectly nice, but died so tragically, so needlessly. If only that Bob had finished his degree, if only that Bob had worked harder, if only that Bob could have been reasonable. I know what they’re trying to say: good riddance, Bob, a nice guy, but what did he ever participate to society, what did he ever do.
My poor friend Bob. It’s been a week since I heard, a month since it happened, and ten years since I last saw him. Likely, I’m the only real friend of Bob’s here, and it’s only a fluke that I ended up coming. Running into a friend of a friend at work, who had been invited, wondering if I was coming to; when she found out I was not invited, she was so embarrassed, like she’d let out a secret, like me, a scoundrel, had no business in mourning
Well, invitation or not, I came. Certainly no one rude enough to tell me to leave, but everyone polite enough to tell me I’m not wanted in as friendly a way as possible. But what do I care of slights, they’ve been hurled at me for years. No, today is about Bob.
Bob and me collided in our last year of university. Neither of us were finished our degrees, but the time was over. We shared an apartment, I put an ad in the paper, he took it, that was it, my life changed by me being cheap in rent. Bob would have liked to talk about a little detail like that.
We lived together for four months. We would each have class at nine, and wake up at noon, and the first action of the day was to be eating some Brunch, and looking guilty at each other, like we’d each been caught running down the hall in grade school, knew it was wrong, but still could not understand why this teacher wanted us to feel so bad. The fact was, we each felt so good.
Those months are so crystal clear in my head. The maker of them in a box ten feet away, yet here I am remembering the both of us fighting hand over fist for the last piece of bread, remembering the talk we had where I realized that school was going to destroy my soul, remembering the time he came home and I was shooting up, and he gave me a hug, told me the world was a hard complicated place, and he had to move out.
Years passed by in those months, my entire life passed by, maybe. Everything we did was so alive. Dinner a pleasure to make with music blaring, wine pouring, and new chefs mastering simple dishes as if they were after Michelin stars. Always a joke about the washroom, how it was easier to wear sandals then to actually clean. Sitting in good lighting, listening to good music, talking to each other about anything that flittered through our minds. We did do some action, we went to some amazing parties, saw some amazing things, but when I look back, all I remember is us sitting side by side, and talking. And now that head which expressed so much of itself to me, sits silent forever, feet away.
Bob, me, and the rest of the world, we all took different paths in life. I walk down a street, I don’t fit in. The rest of the world walks down the street, and there’s nobody who doesn’t fit in, and Bob, well he doesn’t walk down the street, maybe he’s skipping, or running through the forest, or even in the gutter. He does what he does.
I remember Bob suckered me into working at this after school charity with him. He loved kids, knew he’d never have em, and still liked to be around them. Anyway, we’d just finished a few hour session, had a lot of fun, and me and Bob are around the corner having a smoke. Now, something you need to know about Bob, is that he’s a chameleon, he’ll fit in anywhere. But he doesn’t like it when those lives intersect, and when some little tween girl walks around the corner and sees her happy go lucky counselor doing something like smoking, Bob, he aint happy.
She lectures him, saying “You know smoking’s bad for you.”
Bob goes, “What does it mean it’s bad for me.”
She gets that little superior look on her face, that one only 12 year old girls can get, and lectures, “smoking will make you die young, is what I mean by it’s bad for you.”
And Bob looks at her straight, not a hint of a chuckle, but not a hint of darkness either, just stating a fact: “What if I die young anyways, then why would I care about smoking.”
The little girl had no answer, and she took it as a joke. They laughed, and Bob said some shit about how he’d quit just for her. I think he even meant it too, that’s probably the only thing that could make him quit, a promise to a little innocent. She took it as a joke, but it made me think; it wasn’t a joke. Not at all.
That night I asked Bob about what he meant he wasn’t going to live long. He thought about it, you could tell it was a conversation he wasn’t to pumped on. He said “You know, when I was sixteen, I was with some friends, sitting on a rooftop, looking at the city and stars. We were really happy. We had some wine, and we started talking, and I told them that if that was the last night of my life, I was happy. I’d drunk the cup of life, and what greedy person asks for seconds. Everybody said I was bullshitting, that if there was a gun to my head, I’d obviously choose life. And that is true. But that does not contradict that I’ve already lived a full life. That night was years ago, I’m on my third or fourth cup of life now. What right do I have to ask for anymore.”
It’s been a coupla years now since me and Bob, we last met. It hasn’t been voluntary, at least on my part. I love the guy. I’d see him everyday. No, he was the one that made it so we wouldn’t see each other.
One day, this was after we’d both dropped university, he came over to my house. I hadn’t seen him in about a week, and he never stops over, it was a surprise. He wasted no time with niceties. The first thing he told me was that he would never see me again. He didn’t word it so brusquely, he made a joke out of it, he made it seem natural. But that is what he said.
Naturally, I asked him why not, he got a problem with me, I do something wrong? He told me he was just trying to be happy. That being here, he feels pressure, the weight of the world’s eyes on his shoulders. That he was running away like a little boy, so he could live the life of his dreams. I asked him what that dream was, he told me it was to talk to people. I told him we were talking now, and he nodded, and said how he wished we could just do this for an eternity. He told me that money was a step to happiness he didn’t want to take. That work was something you did so that after work, you would have free time. That TV is something you watch so you don’t see your life. That drinking is something you do, so you feel like you’re doing something. He told me that everybody thought they were going somewhere, making more money, buying nice cars, getting families, but really they’re just treading water. That he wished no ill to these people, but he is unhappy, and why on earth should a person be unhappy. So he was going to leave that which was making him so down. Which was apparently everything.
He didn’t quite word it like that, there was a lot of how he’s the happiest and saddest person in the world, and that everything is balanced. All that bullshit. But he was serious. And that was the last time I ever saw him
Every now and then, in these last few years, I would see something that reminded me of Bob. A crosswalk where I pulled him back so a bus wouldn’t hit him. A road that we would walk up and down, up and down, talking, and letting our conversation end before the walk. A restaurant where he made the waitress fall in love with both of us. There’s a painting of his life all around me, and I’m stuck seeing new colors every day.
I would see something, and wonder. Where is he right now. Is he happy. Is he better off then the rest of us. Is whatever he’s doing just another way of living an unhappy life like the rest of us. I’d see things and I’d wonder.
Then one day, I heard about this funeral. Now there’s all these people around us, those faces of the crowd he was repelled from. Everyone looking at the cheap casket, making the motions of mourning, but the silent hiss of superiority fills the room. Here was a man who thought he was better then us, the crowd seems to inhale, and now he is dead and we are not, the crowd seems to exhale.
“Such a tragedy, to die so unfulfilled,” One says.
He was the happiest person I ever met.