Monday, October 04, 2004

Cliffhanger #2,317: resolved. Kind of.

"You're fucking her, aren't you?"

I sneer at Ross, as if tasting something bitter. "Thanks for coming, Ross," I say, ripping my hand away from him and turning my back.

I promised myself that I wouldn't lie if someone asked me that question. But I'm at my mother's wake, for crying out loud! It felt ok to put him off. I didn't actually lie, anyway.

Still, I'm sure he's going to speak to Dan about it. And I'm going to have some major damage control to do on Monday. But you know what? I don't care. I love Lila, and I needed to be with her, and she's really helped me get through this. There are other jobs, if I lose this one. I'm never going to have another mom, or another Lila.

We have to be back here at the funeral home first thing in the morning. It's been another draining evening and everyone goes their separate ways for the night.

Lila has been staying over every night since Tuesday. I know I usually get kind of claustrophobic about overnight female guests, but I'm really happy she's been there. I don't know what I would have done if I had to sleep alone. It's been nice having someone next to me when I wake up.

10:30. Lila is pressed up tightly against me in bed. I can feel the heat of her breath against my cheek; I smell the green apple-smell of her hair.

"Thank you," I say.

"For what?" she says, playing with my hair.

"For staying with me."

"There is nowhere else in the whole world that I would rather be than right here, next to my baby," she says, in her little-girl voice.

"Thanks for giving mom the dress."

"You're welcome."

"Thanks for meeting my family."

"I LOVE your family!"

"They love you too! Thanks for helping me feel better."


We kiss.

It's a deep, urgent, slow kiss, our wet lips kneading softly.

She rolls to her side, wrapping her knees lovingly around my hips, closing her eyes and letting our passion completely take over.

I am hurt, scared, and vulnerable. I NEED to be close to her, inside her, deeply inside her, so that it feels like she is a part of me, and I am a part of her. I'm starving, or dying of thirst, or freezing to death, and she is the food, water, and heat.

I haven't been thinking of sex that much these past few days. But now my desire comes rushing back, as if my blood had first thawed, then started to burn.

I hear the snap of the elastic as she pulls her panties down her legs. I suddenly remember how much I love this feeling, how much I need it.

I am on top of her now, our bodies grinding together in perfect synch. I am not inside her yet; I am waiting until just the perfect moment.

Her breathing gets faster. Her breaths are shaky and quivering, as if she were in the 2-degree cold without a jacket.

She grabs my cock in her right hand. It turns me on that her fingers don't reach all the way around, that I am so totally turned on that it couldn't possibly get any bigger.

She pulls me into her, kissing me deeply. I want her so badly that there is nothing else at that moment, no mom, no funeral tomorrow, no family, no job, nothing but my fervent desire to mingle our bodies together, and her desperate need to please me.

She pulls me deeper inside her with her legs. Her breath still shaking, her voice silent except for the little clipped moans that slip out from time to time.

I stare at her body in the half-light, rising and falling with the rhythm of our sex, her muscles taut as we strain to pull ourselves even closer together, so that neither one of us will ever have to be alone again. Her breasts bounce slightly; her curvy hips look beautiful, simply perfect, as she thrusts them at me with a fiery passion to match mine.

I stop for a moment and feel our sex building to a crescendo. I sigh as I release all of my emotion, all of my sadness, all of my love for her in one exploding climax.

I look at Lila. There are tears streaming down the sides of her face. Mine too.

The room falls silent. Suddenly I become aware that it is pouring down rain outside. I didn't even hear it until just this moment.


Lila took Friday off to be with the family. I don't expect anyone from work to be at church, but if they are, they are. I'll explain it away, somehow, and if I can't, we'll figure something else out when the time comes.

At the church, it's like I am outside my body. Dad asked me to do one of the readings, and as I genuflect at the altar and walk up to the lectern, it feels like this isn't real anymore. It can't be.

I listen to my voice over the speakers; it sounds faint and far away, like someone talking in the next room.

This can't be happening. There can't be six guys, dressed in black, carrying my mother in a box. The priest can't be sprinkling mom's casket with holy water. Mom can't BE in a casket. Mom can't be dead. She CAN'T be! Mom was young! And young people don't die.

Do they?

The mass ends and the pallbearers carry the casket back down the stairs and slide it silently into the hearse. Lila and I get into my car and take our place in the line of vehicles bound for the cemetery.

We stand by mom's grave, the priest leading us in prayer. All I can do is look at the casket, shiny and pink, sitting on top of a kind of wooden scaffolding, supported by a rectangle of grey metal tubes. There is an ocean of colorful flowers on the casket. It's beautiful and tragic.

I touch the coffin one final time as I walk away. It's cold and hard.

Family members hug and wipe away tears. I turn to Lila. She is squeezing my arm with both hands. She is crying, too.

"Can you go back to dad's house with the girls," I say.

"What? Why!?"

"I need to stay here for a few minutes alone," I say.

"But why? I wanna stay with you!"

"I need to be alone."

"What are you gonna do?"

I dunno. Thought I'd piss into her grave, maybe. Or light off a few M-80's in there.

"I just need to say goodbye alone."

"No, I want to be with you, Steve."

"Lila, please!"

"Steve, I don't understand why you are pushing me away! I don't understand why you won't let me be there for you!"

"I AM letting you be there for me! I just need to be by myself for the next few minutes! Can you please go back with Nancy and Janet?"

"OK," she pouts.

"I PROMISE I won't let you outta my site when I get back, ok, baby?"



She hugs me. "I love you," she says.

"I love you."

I sit sideways on the driver's seat of my car until all the other cars are gone. I am mabye 60 yards away from mom's gravesite.

A small, Bobcat-like vehicle rolls up to the grave. It's got a short crane-type attachment coming off the top of it. Two men work busily, attaching cables to the coffin.

The Bobcat driver works levers expertly, feverishly, and the casket leaves the ground. The two men scurry around the scaffolding, then step away. And then the coffin, with my mother in it, starts to descend silently into the earth.

It's really over, I think. Mom won't make a recovery, she won't go to rehab, she won't get a liver transplant, she won't turn over a new leaf. There is no life left in her body and never will be. It's over.

One side of the coffin is much lower than the other as the man lowers it into the grave. It's the side closest to the headstone, the part where mom's head would be. I imagine her inside the casket, being jostled about, her hands coming unfolded, her hair going askew, her body lurching heavily this way or that.

I want to get out of the car and yell at the man: HEY! Watch what the hell you're doing! Be CAREFUL with her!

But mom doesn't need me to do that now. Nothing that happens to her body is important from this point onward. Mom just needs me to drive away, back to dad's house, where I can be with my family and mourn together one last time.