Beer and Pizza the Night Before a Funeral

You will gather around a table in
a home you’ve never been in,
share a meal with people you haven’t seen
for a year or four. Some, not ever.
Four of you will find yourselves in Africa
in the years to come. You talk rat races and
NGOs and ways you might change the world.

You will order a pizza from the place no one
ordered pizza from when you were students.
The suburban life has taken hold these days.
You will drink too much beer, toast one another,
and toast the one two of you know, the one no longer here.
But do not fool yourself. She was never here in this house,
with this crew. Still, your grief. It is yours.

And then, the unexpected–You will steal a yard sign:
The one from the Neighborhood Association announcing the
“Homeowner of the Year”; and you will place it in the
Only unkempt yard of the development; the house shared by
the band of Christian Rock stars who are always on tour,
whose grass always needs to be mowed.

The earth beneath their amazing grass will be soft
enough to receive this wretched sign, its hyper-manufactured, too-perfect
fonts telling off the neighborhood. You will leap back into the pickup
truck that whizzes through the neighborhood, trip over something
or other, your furiously-paced half-whispers broken by giggles
that will explode into guffaws once you crash through the front door.
The children never wake.

You are too old to be doing this. And yet, you feel too young for what you will do tomorrow. Pack into an auditorium, listen to someone sing show tunes very well, listen to someone tell the spiffed-up partial truth about a life that ended too soon (No one tells the whole truth), sip wine and eat expensive cheese like you did when you cleaned up after Board of Director meetings, just before you were told to make yourself scarce again.

Though it’s been but a year or two, there will be plenty of folks who will have forgotten you. One who remembers will talk about his divorce and mid-life crisis; another will tell you the same stories he always tells; and then there will be the toasts to one no longer there; one half-remembered because no one tells the whole truth, especially to one too young to be there, paid only part time when you were supposed to be there.

You will re-learn, tomorrow, to keep the grief to yourself, as if it were the giggle that betrays a crass joke you share with friends. But tonight, as you lay your head in a strange bed, you learn there are no signs in the universe–except for the ones you steal, repurpose, and give away, hurrying back to strange house, made warm by the noisy ridiculousness of your laughter.

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