I think the best of intentions will need some improvising at times. Do I speak from experience, sure I do.
This past Saturday, I had plans. Phase 1: Go to the grocery store and buy flower bouquets. Phase 2: Go to lunch with my dad thirty minutes south of home. Phase 3: Head to the cemetery just outside of Cape Charles, Virginia. There were three graves I was planning on visiting. Karen’s mom would have been celebrating a birthday if she was still with us. Then two friends of my teenage years, one who had died almost eight years ago and one who just recently passed away.
I don’ t know about you, but most of my days off never go as planned. I was running behind and before I knew it, it was time to hit the road and head south towards the Shanty for lunch. I grabbed my sweater out of the dryer and jumped in my car. I glanced at the time and knew that there was no way I could stop at our local grocery store on the way there. I would have to stop by the one in Cape Charles after lunch.
It’s amazing what kind of temperature difference thirty miles can make. When I arrived in Cape Charles, I realized that my t-shirt was not going to be adequate enough for my post lunch cemetery outing. For an added bonus, once I was in the car I realized that my sweater wasn’t dry. Fantastic. Can this get any worse?
WORD TO THE WISE: NEVER, EVER ASK THAT QUESTION.
Lunch was consumed and I said my goodbyes. Out to the grocery store and then to the cemetery. I walked in the store and approached a cashier. I hardly ever go this one, so I had no idea where their flowers would be located. “Excuse me? Where can I find flowers?”
“Go to the produce section and ring the bell.”
“Produce section. Ring the bell. Right-o.” I totally felt like Dorothy on the way to see the wizard, except Dorothy had those warm ruby red slippers and all I had were flip-flops.
As I approached the produce door, I could see a man working through the window. Now, should I really ring the bell? I can obviously see someone standing right there. Can I just crack the door? I mean, I don’t want to break code and get thrown out over a minor complication. I cracked the door, “Hello!”
He looked at me almost in a grimace, and I’m sure it was because I didn’t ring the bell. Why, oh why can’t I follow directions? “Sorry to be a bother, but I am looking for flowers and I was told to come back here and ring the bell.” Even though that is not what I did exactly.
The man shook his head. Shit, he really isn’t going to give me the damn flowers over the lack of bell ringing. Are you kidding me?
“We’ll probably have some tomorrow.”
So, that whole improvising thing. I left the store with a concoction of items that I’m sure started up some wild rumors about me being pregnant, because only a pregnant person would buy a can of Speghetti-O’s, a Snickers bar and a bag of Funions. Wrong Food Lion shoppers, a desperate woman with a history of bad graveyard behavior would also buy these items.
EVIDENCE: It is safe to say that I have a history of bad graveyard behavior.
(Circa de 2006 with help from a annonymous dear friend with black hands. You can laugh, it’s cool.)
I pulled into the cemetery and thought, ‘Oh good. I’m the only one here. I can take my time.”
Then someone pulled in behind me. I bumped up my pace a little, desperately scanning for the two headstones and a fresh dirt pile. (Inappropriate description, I mean really, how else do you find a new grave?) I pulled into another path hoping that they would keep going on the main cemetery drag. Oh no, they followed me. Isn’t this how the white girl always gets it in the scary movies? She’s driving through a cemetery, with nothing to protect her but a can of Speghetti-O’s, and boom, some crazy man in a black Pontiac with a fluffy dog kills her. He was probably going to beat me to death with my Snickers bar. I take another turn, he follows. And another, he follows again. Finally, I throw my hands up and say, “WHAT THE HELL?!”
This must have been a sign to the man in the black Pontiac with the fluffy dog that I was actually the lunatic and was likely going to assault him with a bag of Funions. He quickly pulled onto another path and moved along.
As I moseyed around a cemetery that is documented to have over 2000 graves, I realized that I couldn’t find anyone. I attended two of these funerals. I knew the general gist of the location. If that wasn’t bad enough, every fresh dirt pile was not the one I was looking for. How could this be?
I want to buy a house across the street from a cemetery just to watch people drive around in a circle. It seems with all the modern technology that you get find an app for your cell phone or maybe a GPS program so sophisticated it can direct you to the exact location of a grave.
“All I need is a sign!”
And that’s when God gave me a sign, a sign that I was a gullible moron. “A cat! That has to be a sign!” I sped over (at fifteen miles an hour) to the graves where I saw a tabby cat hanging out. I got out and ran towards the cat. “Kitty! Come here, kitty!”
It seems that this cat had subscribed to the belief that humans only sacrifice cute little kitties found in cemeteries. As I approached him, he hauled off to a neighboring yard. “Wait, come back! Come here, you damn cat!” He was gone and once again I was all alone.
I whipped out my phone. I text Karen.
Me: Alright, all the dead people are hiding from me.
Karen: Maybe a game of Marco-Polo would help.
Me: I’m almost considering that. I can’t find any fresh dirt that is Bryan’s. I can’t find Tara’s. I can’t find your mom’s. Everyone is hiding. And I’m pretty sure where I just drove wasn’t actually a road.
Karen: Ha ha ha… my mom’s is near that house with the horses. Ha ha, somebody is going to have a headache.
I check my email. I had sent a message to a friend earlier to ask where Bryan was buried. He had just responded. Turned out, he was cremated and not buried. There was a memorial, but no actual grave. “Dammit!” The hunt continued.
Me: What color were the flowers you left at your mom’s grave?
Karen: They were just lilies I laid on the ground. By the time you see them, you will be able to read her name.
Just as I send that message, I see a small gathering of flowers and a marker with a photo. “SHIT!” I slam on the brakes. I get out and run over to the items, and there it was. Bryan’s memorial. I ran back to the car and grab the Snickers bar.
“Hey, man. Brought you something.” I placed the Snickers bar by the flowers. “An odd choice, and I’m sure anyone to visit you after me will think the same. Funny story, really. The grocery store was out of flowers and I thought to myself, if I was dead and couldn’t go to the store, what would I want? Boom, Snickers! They are one of my favorites. And I was thinking of the good times, how we used to laugh. Laugh, snicker. Get it?” I cleared my throat. “You are the third person I grew up with to be murdered. I’m not sure if there is a national average I can check with, but I’m thinking my tally is pretty high. I know it’s been years since we were tight, but we had some great times back in the day. You know how people say, ‘When I die, I hope I’m reunited with blah blah blah or so and so.’ I hope you are reunited with that red car. It was a bad ass car. Every time I hear that Sublime song, Santeria, I think about us cruising around. Scott’s in the passenger side, I’m squeezed in the backseat between Tony and Wayne Costin. We are singing to the top of our lungs. Jeez, we were young. It was such a simpler time then and I think we took a lot of it for granted. You were right about my evil ex. You called it from the very beginning. He was a horrible man and he wouldn’t ever be good enough for my affections. Somehow you knew that he wasn’t to be trusted. You were right, I should have listened. Well, it’s getting chilly and I still have two more people to find. I hope your journey is peaceful, brother.”
I hustled back towards my car when a headstone caught my eye. Reid Diggs.
“Are you kidding me? When did you die? Why are people constantly dropping dead!” I stood there in such shock that all I could do was stare at the name. “Why did no one tell me? How did I miss this?” I felt my eyes starting to water up. How could I be so oblivious to not know that my friend, Reid Diggs, was dead? “Oh Reid, this is awful. Wait a damn minute.” The headstone in its entirety read Reid Diggs, Sr. I started giggling. “Oh, thank goodness! It’s just his dad. Thank God, his dad is dead and not him. I mean, that was awful. I shouldn’t have phrased it like that.”
I walked back to the car and got in. “Now, where in the hell are the rest of you?”
My phone beeped. Yay, another message Karen.
It’s a clue!
I lined up my phone in the direction of the house. I was close. I drove towards the western end of the cemetery, phone in hand. This would be a perfect time for one of those ‘don’t text and drive’ commercials. I could imagine the solemn voice discussing the dangers of texting. My blazer would be upside down, engulfed in flames. You would just see my hand extend out the window grasping with all I could to that can of Speghetti-O’s.
I saw the heart shaped head stone. I threw the car in park and sprinted over several graves. I clutched the can and ran with that Olympic theme song in my head, wind whipping through my hair. “I found you! I finally found you!”
A Hispanic couple planting flowers at a nearby grave looked in disgust. Oh, us white people. We act crazy in cemeteries. I mean, if you think that is bad, then just wait until you get a look at me doing this!
I texted the photo to Karen with the note : Good clue!
I think I saw the now seriously disturbed family making the sign of the cross and saying a few Hail Mary’s. “God, they act like somebody died. Sheesh.”
“Speaking of Mary, hello there Mary! Bet you didn’t expect to see me here, huh? Here I am though, and I brought Speghetti-O’s!” I placed the can alongside the lilies that Karen had left behind. “I bet you didn’t expect me to show up with this either. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know why Karen ever liked those things. They smell like vomit. Did Karen ever tell you about her obsession with Speghetti-O’s. Let me grab a seat here.” I sat down at the foot of the grave. “When we were youngsters, I’m sure you would recall how I would come spend the night at your house. Karen and I would sit up to all hours of the night playing Monopoly or Guess Who or with that damn Ouija board. We’d wait until you were asleep and Karen would beg for me to sneak out to the kitchen and smuggle her a can of that gross stuff back to the bedroom. I probably could have grown up to be a drug mule I practiced that so much. She had a can opener and a spoon that she hid in her bedroom just for these occasions. Bleh, I still think they smell like vomit. Well, I still have one more grave to hit up. Happy Birthday!”
I wandered around in search of Tara’s grave, but could never find it. There is a fortune to be made in Graveyard GPS. I finally stopped in the middle of a path and grabbed the bag of Funions. “Tara, I know you are here somewhere and I’d love to keep looking, but I really have to pee. I think I’m at that age that it is becoming less acceptable to pee in public. I brought you Funions, for all our beaching days. Remember that time we were on our way to Willis Farm and I decided that I was going to be two of Alanis Morrissette’s characters from her Ironic video simultaneously? I can still hear you screaming at me as I climbed out the driver’s side window. It felt so amazing to be driving from outside of the car I could barely feel you beating on my thigh, yelling, ‘MELANIE!!!! GET BACK IN THE FUCKING CAR!’ It was a great moment in time and you know it. You rock, girlfriend. See you on the next go round.”
I texted Karen: Well, I found everyone but Tara.
Karen: Maybe she moved? LOL.
Me: Hahaha, maybe so. I’m surprised no one called the cops on me.
Karen: You digging up people to identify them? My Dad looks like what you see in ashtrays. LOL.
I pulled out of the graveyard and thought of all the times when we were teenagers and that very place was a hangout. I’ve drank there, I’ve pee’d there, and I’m sure I’ve done other things that shouldn’t make this blog there. Never in my life would I have thought that by the time I was in my early thirties there would be two dead friends and three dead parents.
Jeez, we were young. It was such a simpler time then and I think we took a lot of it for granted.
This blog is dedicated to Karen, who remains one of my best friends no matter how awful I am. She has somehow lived through losing both her parents by the time we were thirty. Here’s to her and her parents.
I might be big and I might be dumb, but I ain’t no big dummy.
-My very favorite John Tillette saying.