It had been a week since I met her. Ever since, I visited the cemetery every day, hoping to get her glimpse. That day, she looked like a vision- in her yellow dress, sipping wine in the cemetery.
A week ago-
It had rained the entire day. As I can’t stand the rain, I waited for it to subside. Eventually, it stopped. After spending a restless afternoon, I started for the cemetery as the sun was about to set.
The cemetery was on a small hill. A blanket of mist had enveloped the cemetery. Usually abandoned, the cemetery had another visitor. Without paying any attention to her, I moved towards Thomas’ grave.
As a kid, I often frequented this old cemetery with my mother to visit my grandpa. While she prayed, I toddled around and threw the pebbles on the other graves. Soon, I began to notice the graves and read the epitaphs.
Most of the graves were well-maintained- swept clean, weed-free, and fragrant with flowers. However, the graves covered with scraggly grass fascinated me more. These graves seemed neglected, probably nobody visited them. I believed that the people buried under the well maintained were more loved and the dead under the unkempt graves were as neglected as their graves. I sometimes dropped a rose or two on such unkempt graves to make the unloved happy. As I grew up, I realized that my long-held belief wasn’t true. Perhaps, those lying under the unattended graves were loved more. Probably, the pain was too deep for their friends and family to even visit.
Thomas’ gravestone had a water puddle on it. The puddle had a colorful streak, as if a painter’s brush had given it a stroke. I kept the red rose on the tombstone. The sob was steaming up my throat as the guilt burned me from inside. I was praying for his soul when a sound caught my attention. I turned to see a girl in a yellow dress, opening a bottle of wine.
I scoffed. Youths these days have no respect for the dead. Shaking my head, I turned back to my friend. Then I heard her call out, “Stranger. Here!” As I turned, I saw her beckoning me over with her finger.
I walked towards her and noticed that she was sitting near a tombstone, leaning on its epitaph for support. Her hair was flowing in the wind. Purple flowers rested on the tombstone that she leaned on.
As I towered over her, she patted on the ground next to her, with a soft smile. I obediently sat next to her. And that’s when I spotted the breathtaking view.
We sat together in silence, watching the sun setting. The sun seemed to have rolled down the hill. The sky looked like the art palate of an artist filled with different hues. The spot offered a beautiful panoramic glimpse of California city. A lush green meadow in the valley welcomed us.
Yet, the gloominess hung over the cemetery. The silent silhouettes of the Oak trees looked desolate and wistful. The dark cloud hovered over the graveyard. I noticed a book on her lap- ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’.
I opened my mouth to say something when she asked, “What’s your name?”
“Chris, and you?” I asked.
She passed me the bottle and gestured for me to take a sip. I held the bottle with my trembling hand.
“Lisa.” She softly replied. I noticed, her pastel-colored eyes had a hint of gloominess.
“I have never seen you before, new here?”
“I don’t live in California. Just visiting a friend,” she replied. “I’m a writer, I came to the cemetery to write. It’s so peaceful, helps me think.” Showing me the notebook in the other hand, she said.
“Ah! Writer at a cemetery. Method writer?” Knitting my brow, I asked.
“I just jotted a few lines,” pulling out a piece of paper from her time-beaten yellowed book, she said. The words were written in neat handwriting. –
One more prayer
One more wish
One last hug
Before goodbye kiss
“Wow! This is great!” I complimented.
“Who are you visiting?” raising an eyebrow, she asked.
“A close friend. He passed away a few months ago,” looking down I replied.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” She replied, her eyes filled with emotions. After a brief pause, she asked, “What do you do, Chris?” she asked.
“I’m a painter. Still learning.” I stammered.
“Wow! Why don’t you bring your canvas next time? You paint, I write.” She smiled. I saw her face turning a light shade of pink.
“Sure. I’m all for funerary art.” I laughed. “Drinking wine in a graveyard. Isn’t it odd?’’ I questioned.
Chuckling she replied, “I found it on one of the graves. I don’t think Mrs. Smith would mind.” This girl had a dark sense of humor.
“Have a sip,” she nudged again.
“No. I can’t.” I replied and handed her bottle back to her.
“Why? Will you be driving?” Taking the bottle, she asked.
Pointing at a grave, I said “You see that grave. It’s Thomas, my best friend. On a fateful day, we went for a long drive. I was drunk. Somehow, it seemed like a good idea to drive. We had an accident. Thomas died. Had I not been drunk that day, perhaps I wouldn’t be here today. I can’t forgive myself.” My eyes filled with tears again. “One moment we were singing and the next he was gone,” I added.
“I’m sorry. You need to forgive yourself. It was an accident.” She said.
After a long and uncomfortable pause, I asked, “Aren’t you scared?” I asked.
“The dead don’t scare me. When I was a kid I used to visit the cemeteries with my brother and play Kokkuri san. I borrowed it from a Japanese teacher.” With a wink she replied.
“What is Kokkuri san?” Frowning, I asked.
“It is Japanese Ouija board,” she replied.
“Wow! Ouija board in a cemetery? Not creepy at all.” Sarcastically, I said. “Did you encounter anyone interesting?”
“Probably. We didn’t understand Japanese.” The graveyard echoed with our laughter.
After months, I laughed so hard, that too in a cemetery. As our laughter died down, looking in the dark, she asked, “What do you think lies the other side?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“I think it would be fun.” Taking a sip from the bottle, she said.
“So are we doing the existential questions?
Here is something that I have always wondered. What’s the answer to the question of life?” I asked.
“I won’t say 42. That number got me failed in maths’ test, more than once.” Winking, she said. “Tell me the question of life.”
“I don’t understand the purpose of life. We live and then we die. What’s the point?” Philosophically I asked, a feeble attempt to impress the beauty with brains.
“Don’t take it too seriously. It’s life. Live it, enjoy it. Savor till the last drop. Like this wine.” Taking another sip, she asked, “Do you know what’s the most important moment of our life?”. She didn’t wait for me to answer the question.
“Now. This very moment is the most important moment of our life.” She said.
“I wish, I could live in the moment. I can’t forget the past. You think we will be punished for our sins?” Overburdened by the guilt, I looked at my friend’s grave.
“You mean like for drinking wine at a cemetery?” She chuckled.
“You know what I mean,” I said.
She replied, “Our guilt in itself is our punishment. Ain’t it?” She was too wise for her age.
As she put her right hand on my shoulder, I knew that she felt the connection as well. However, sensory pleasure didn’t last long. The one thing I had been dreading since morning, abruptly interrupted our moment. The Rain. How I hate the rain!
And just like that. Before her eyes… I began to disintegrate.
I kept a wine bottle on Mrs. Smith’s gravestone, hoping that Lisa would visit one day. With a heavy heart, I took few steps towards Thomas’ grave- right next to mine.
The story was first published on artoonsinn.com