After writing a piece from the point-of-view of Bette’s mother at her son’s funeral, I got interested in seeing what else had happened there for the remaining members of the Lauden family. So here’s Bette’s point of view on that day; I tried writing it in 3rd person to match Miriam’s piece, but it turns out I’m far too used to writing in first person for Bette. So here’s what happened to her that day.
Someone is saying sad things about Graham, and nice things about death. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
I’ve been staring at my feet since we sat down. I’ve only worn these shoes once before, to the 8th grade Spring dance. I went with Jesse, Harvey and Chase, all of us together. No dates. We danced, talked, jumped around to the fast songs and sang at the top of our lungs with everyone else. There’s a scuff mark across the top of the left shoe where Harvey stepped on me at some point. I would’ve tried to get rid of it before the funeral, but I kind of forgot about things like shoes until I remembered I needed to put them on this morning.
Everyone starts singing in a mumbled, disorganized, and toneless way. It’s awful. Graham wasn’t a musician, but he liked music, fun music, pop songs that he’d dance around his room too, singing under his breath. He would hate this. He’d look at me and roll his eyes and we’d both smile.
I smile now, until I see the coffin sitting a few feet in front of me. Why is the family seated closest to the coffin? I want nothing to do with it. I want to be as far away from this as possible. We should be sitting in the back. Then I wouldn’t have to look at this, knowing my brother is inside and that he’s never coming out again. It’s like the shittest game of hide and seek in the world. He isn’t hiding and I’m not seeking, but here we are. Something in my chest is surging up, swelling with wretchedness and spilling out onto my face through my eyes. He will never smile or laugh or play any kind of game.
And I don’t even really know why. He’s just…gone and everything is empty where he used to be, places I can see and places I can only feel.
They are lowering the coffin into the ground, and when I close my eyes, I can feel the walls closing in around me. The small tight dark space that he’s been given, and now everything outside of that closed off as well, deep inside the ground, swallowed whole by it. I can’t breathe. I can’t move. Everything’s spinning and pressing in and he isn’t moving and I can’t breathe….
A few minutes later, I learn that I threw up, and then passed out. Everyone’s looking at me. I look at the hole in the ground. I can’t see the coffin anymore, and my dad helps me into my seat. I shake quietly, inside, and don’t look up again.
There’s a reception afterward. Why do they call it that? That’s a word for weddings, for happy things, for a family that’s growing not one that’s shrinking. This is just…depression, served with food. I didn’t eat. I had water and then sat down on a padded bench outside the bathrooms by myself until Jesse sits down next to me.
“How’s your stomach?” he asks.
He moves over and puts an arm around my shoulders. This is how we sat on the couch a few days ago, when no one else was home. We were about to kiss. We look at each other now and I feel a pull to move closer, to touch his lips with mine. He feels it, too, I can tell. The look he has now is the one he had then.
“Bette…” he says quietly, a voice, a word, meant only for me. I start to close my eyes and lean…
But I see the coffin again, the pit dug in the dirt, and my stomach rolls and my eyes snap open. Jesse hasn’t noticed. He isn’t looking. And if I kiss him now, I’ll always think of my dead brother when I kiss him. “I can’t.”
I stand up and walk away, crying for Graham, for myself, for Jesse, for small tight dark spaces in the ground from which there is no escape. I don’t look back.