The moment you step into the waxed air you're
thrown by the mixed smells of flowers and
formaldehyde. This place is foreign to you:
you've never been to a funeral before. Not
The foyer is a sea of scattered sorrow, and you
buoy amongst anonymous faces, unable to find
anyone you know. Adrift, you defer to finding
a seat in the chapel where you await the
service. The room is blisteringly silent, aside
from the teenaged chapel staff who shuffle
between empty rows, sneakers scuffing and
Up front, the minister is getting organized for
his remarks despite you knowing the deceased
wasn't religious. Is there more? A question for
another day, perhaps.
In the quietude of the room you can hear
someone creep into the seat behind yours.
Sitting paralyzed, you hear a pew bend when
they creak forward to whisper in your ear,
"Died old, that's for sure. Almost ninety."
You whisper in hushed agreement. Ninety
seems so short, yet so impossibly long.
Your interlocutor leans in again and you feel
their breath on your neck. "Too bad they died
so long ago," they say. "It's awful when that
happens. When they die young, having lived
a long life."
There's a beat, and you turn slowly to face the
speaker, but they're gone. Ahead of you, the
chapel doors have opened, and mourners begin
to fill the vacant rows.
Sitting alone in silence, the smell overwhelms
I found cracks of meaning and purpose
wherever I went; in line at the Bodega, or
flowering out of the smokestack that
pheromoned the first avenue with the smell of
There was beauty and perspective in the urban
miasma that made me feel small, in a good
way. Freed, even.
Of course, I tried the classical avenues first: I
went to church and spoke to a virgin as
honestly as I'd be truthful to myself, and I
Ayahuasca'd my sins from the pits of my soul
like the smokestack on first. At one juncture I
even saw an astrologist, who said my air sign
would make it hard for me to find consistency
in relationships, inside and out.
Of all those people in all that time, the most
insight I ever got was from a pseudo-psychic
on Avenue A who charged me $50 for a five
All she told me, index traversing the etches of
my skin, was that I'd die young, having lived a
long life. It scared the shit out of me, the
everyday having faded into my periphery.
It's important, vital even, to find beauty in the
trenches, through the shit. To find presence
and permanence in ephemerality. You get so
caught up in who you've been and who you'll
be that you never really get to live as either —
Maybe most people don't want to live, at least
the lives they have.
I didn't. And then, I did.
I hope one day you do too.