I didn’t want to see them. Not here. Not now. Not ever. But my mother thought otherwise, so there we sat in my car with her at the wheel. I couldn’t be trusted to drive anymore. She nodded at me as I looked back up at the looming double doors of Max Krupsie and Sons Funeral Home. I got out and slammed the door as she drove off, leaving me there.
I stood outside for a while, watching some adult couples come and go. I reached into my purse to text my friend Charlotte, looking for comforting words, but as my hand touched the phone, I pulled it out. I had to do this on my own, and I went inside.
There, an older woman with grey hair stood at the front directing people where to go. She wore an old and faded flower print dress that smelt of mothballs, or formaldehyde. But yet, when she looked at me I felt comfortable.
It was her eyes that did it for me. They seemed to tell me that it was OK to cry. She waddled up to me as a small tear formed in the corner of my eye, and said, “Is there anything I can do for you honey?” I shook my head. “Are you here for the Wilson funeral?”
I nodded and she pointed over to my left. “Over there...So tragic isn’t it? So young. So innocent.” I tried to back away from her, but she kept talking. “These ones are the hardest.”
Pulling myself away from her I walked towards the end of the line that ran down the hallway. In front of me was one of the couples I watched enter the funeral home. They were in their mid-thirties and dressed in fine black clothes. They whispered to each other for a while before the man turned to me and said, “How did you know Jamie?”
I swallowed, not because my throat was dry, but because that question seemed to hollow me out inside and I needed to fill the void, even if it was with my own spit. “I...I didn’t know her.”
“Same with us. I worked with John. So sad, and yet so preventable. She didn’t have to die.” The man leaned in closer and shook his head. “I heard they might reduce the charges down from manslaughter. That’s just...unbelievable.”
I lowered my head as the woman started talking, “People just think that, especially your generation, not nothing against you personally, but they think they’re invincible.” She pointed towards the casket. “Nobody is.”
The woman, satisfied, turned around as we waited. I couldn’t see the parents quite yet, but I knew they were there.
Then my phone vibrated and I reached into my purse on instinct, pulling it out. It was a text from my mother. Apparently she was going to pick me up in 30min. She was running errands. I started to reply when the man turned around.
“What are you doing?”
“You don’t text at a wake...especially this one!” The room went silent as he grabbed my phone and closed it. Off to the side I could see Mrs. Wilson.
She stormed towards me and shouted, “You! What the hell are you doing here...and with that thing!” She took the phone from the man. “This is to come nowhere near my DEAD BABY! And the same goes for you.”
Mrs. Wilson threw my phone against the wall, shattering it into six or seven different pieces. “GET THE FUCK OUT! YOU MURDERER!”
I left the pieces of my phone on the funeral home floor and sat outside, trying to avoid the looks of the mourners coming out. I heard them talking about me as they walked past. Some kind enough to whisper, others just said what they thought out-loud. Still, it wasn’t as bad as the people that yelled directly at me.
When they left me alone, I passed the time staring out towards the road. It was as good as anything to do while I waited for my mother to come pick me up As the cars zipped by I watched as people talked, texted, and played with their phones as the drove.
“Why me?” I sighed. “Why?”