Wrecking a Funeral
We walk to the beach for the funeral.
There are five of us now, inexplicably. I walk beside Mom, which makes me feel like a child again. Not in a bad way, just in a weird way. I’m still too hungover to be properly processing anything. Graham walks behind us, still holding the golden cat statue--urn, I suppose, actually. Jamie didn’t want to be left out, so he’s here too. And there was a petite woman who had never left the party last night, having accidentally locked herself in the downstairs bathroom. Surprisingly, despite the fact that I don’t recall seeing her ever in my life, she wanted to come to the beach with us too.
Mom looks over at me and plucks a stray thread off my pink denim jacket. “Masie.” I eye her suspiciously, noting her patronizing tone. “About your trip to… wherever it is.” She flicks a hand through the air as if shooing away the idea of the place.
“Honestly, it’s nothing. Bram--I don’t know what Bram told you, but I’m fine. I’m completely fine.” I kind of sound convincing.
“I’m glad you have so much faith in yourself, darling, but you’re not really one to travel. Think of how lonely you’d be, with all the dirt and sheep and things around.”
“Sheep? Where do you think I’d be going?” Are there sheep in Illinois? Never mind, it doesn’t matter because I won't be going anyway.
“I mean, seriously, when you were a little girl you wouldn’t imagine the trouble I had trying to get you to school, or a theater, or, god forbid, the lake house. Remember how you used to shout? And that’s just a few hours’ drive.”
I’m almost swallowed by the memories of the lake house, and I mentally rear back. The lake house with Rachael, and the lake house without Rachael. I feel my headache like a sucker-punch between the eyes. “Mom, yeah, ok. Don’t even worry about it. I’m not going.”
Mom’s shoulders visibly loosen, and she nods her head. “Oh, thank goodness. You wouldn’t survive out there,” she laughs. “You’ve always been my little homey artist with big, wild dreams.”
I scoff. I’d learned a long time ago that it’s best to let things that Mom says slide off me. But I don’t always care what’s best. “Little homey artist with big, wild dreams?” I repeat at her. “And what does that mean?”
Mom’s smile quirks. “Well, your nice little books and everything.” She says it like it’s obvious.
“Little books? I’m a New York Times bestseller!” I’ve raised my voice, and now Jamie and that random girl is looking back at us, and I don’t care at all.
Mom takes one of my hands in both of hers. “Everyone who writes a book is, darling.”
“No, actually.” I’ve stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, and I can see the beach but I’m suddenly determined not to so much as touch the sand. “I have a career! It’s a real thing. What do you want me to do, stumble into a million-dollar business, like you? Get famous acting, like Dad?” Mom is frowning at me, her eyes shaded under her blonde fringe, so I spit, “Run off to Broadway? Like Rachael?”
In that moment, I hadn’t realized that Graham had been standing right behind me, stunned into silence, and he’d been holding the golden cat precisely within arm-flailing range. Which is how, in an unfortunate turn of events, I knock it out of his hands, and it cracks on the sidewalk, sending golden cat shards skittering across the ground. The ashes almost immediately get taken up by the wind, and now there’s just a little pile left. Didn’t even make it onto the sand.
“How could you?” Mom is furious, suddenly. With her hands on her hips and the wing/cape-like construction of her dress, she looks like a black-and-white impenetrable wall. “My poor Coco!” She stares down at the small ash pile, not making any effort to get closer. Graham hesitantly tries to scoop it up in one hand. Jamie and many strangers nearby look on, aghast.
“Rachael should have been here,” I tell her, tears already forming.
“Look at what you did to Coco,” is all she says, looking me square in the eye.
I can barely contain myself, and I take off running in the direction of home.
I wait for someone to show up at my house. To yell at me or apologize, I don’t care. But no one comes.
I’m not surprised Mom hasn’t appeared. She’s probably preoccupied with something else by now, knowing her busy schedule, and she’s no good at talking anyway. All Jamie does is send me a text: “lol what got into your mom today??”. I wait for him to call, and he doesn’t. I acknowledge that I could call him, if I really wanted to talk about it, but the ‘dial’ button feels too far away and I’m too tired.
In the end, I crawl back into bed, my home still a confetti-y mess and the sheets still smelling like Jamie’s hair gel. I suddenly feel guilty for not working on my novel at all. I am a crap writer, aren’t I? A little girl with fantastical dreams.
I know these thoughts will lead to an ugly downward spiral. I know I’m not ok. But I also know that I’m not allowed to admit it. To my mother, I’m the daughter that got everything she asked for. To Jamie, I’m the fun-but-crazy friend that’s too ditsy to feel any real emotions. To strangers, I’m the spoiled brat that they envy. To Bram, I’m… probably a menace. And? And what am I supposed to do about any of that?
It’s not like I can just magically become a different person. It’s not like I’ve hit any particular rock bottom that I haven’t already become well-acquainted with. I’m practically a deep-sea diver in terms of rock-bottoms.
So. Maybe it’s time to do something spontaneous. Something big. Something that no one expects me to do. Maybe I do go to Middle of Nowhere, Illinois.