i wake up on a couch in an apartment that isn’t mine. it’s bright, the sun is glaring through the naked windows. great. a beautiful fucking day. maybe someone is getting married. do people get married on tuesdays? the thought is neither here nor there. i dismiss it and replace it with the thought i don’t want to have. today is Barbara’s funeral and i better get up.

i black out.

the funeral is at 1pm. there is still time. my parents are on their way here. the ride will be here soon. did i even have something to eat? did i have a shower? when did i get dressed? i am wearing a brand new blouse and skirt that i bought because, of course, i didn’t bring any funeral clothes. i was on vacation.

yesterday i went to the mall with my parents. or was it two days ago? three? i can’t remember.  i help pick out clothes for my mom. she looks so small. i am annoyed. every damn store the same smile and the ‘hi how are you?’ i’m not good. i’m buying clothes for my sister’s funeral. but it’s not their fault. they’re just doing their job. i remain calm, appropriate. we go to h&m. not my favourite store but i don’t want to spend too much money, i admit. i wouldn’t wear the clothes anymore anyway. i’d throw them out after the funeral.

but i chose to find something i could still wear somewhere else in another place and on another occasion. because i should. a voice tells me that. a simple black blouse and a simple black skirt. do i need stockings? yes, my mother says. but it’s going to be a million degrees, i think, but i get the stockings too. oh. i need black shoes. ok. fake suede shoes. at check-out my credit card declines. eye roll and groan. mom, can you please lend me your credit card. i don’t have any canadian dollars on me. and my credit card is maxed out because it’s the end of the month and that’s how it usually is with credit cards at the end of the month, right?

i black out and find myself in the living room waiting to go. it’s no longer yesterday but today. i think about the obituary again. i hope it sounds appropriate, loving. as i was writing it, it almost seemed like a cover letter for a job. maybe it is a cover letter to apply for a place in heaven. i hope it got her to where she needed to be. how many people would recognise the name, would recognise that it was about our Barbara? how many people would be shocked, sad?

i black out and find myself looking in the mirror, dressed, my face made up. what should i do with my hair? i’ll go on youtube. that’s always a good idea. how to do an easy updo in 3 minutes. you only need four hair pins. sounds good. 25 hair pins and 10 minutes later my hair looks like a squirrel’s nest. i shrug. it’s humid anyway. 5 minutes later, all my hair pins fall out. well, this is nice. a simple bun it is. thanks for nothing, youtube.

should i wear earrings? no. why did i bring earrings in the first place?

i black out and find myself in a car. a lyft or uber. i don’t remember. i hope the driver doesn’t ask us where we’re going. he already asked us how’re we’re doing today so he’s on thin ice. i hold my mother’s hand in the backseat. the highway is full of cars. traffic as far as the eye can see. we’re gonna be late, i think. then i snort. they won’t start without us. the driver thankfully doesn’t say another word.

i black out then find myself sitting in the front row in the chapel. how did i get here? did amadej drive us or did we take a cab? wait, the cab drove us to the wake yesterday. today is not yesterday. today is funeral-day. the coffin in front of me is shiny. inside lies the body of my sister. i think mom and i made good choices about what she should wear even though nobody got to see it. an elegant lacy beige summer dress that she loved so much and her wedding shoes. white flats because she wanted to wear them all day and night and not get tired from dancing in them. she didn’t even though she dances all night.

and now she gets to wear them forever.

the coffin is surrounded by wreathes of all kinds. the rose-crosses almost make me laugh hysterically. ugly looking things, those crosses. almost like halloween decorations. morbid. and the ones with the lilies. i love lilies but they are making me sick. too overpowering for someone on the verge of an emotional cataclysm.

i look at the wreath we got her. well, not her, for the funeral. we got a regular wreath of pale pink roses. pastel colours that Barbara liked so much. simple, dignified. even though it cost nearly 600 dollars, it looks miniscule among those cross abominations. monstrosities, really. tacky.

i black out and find myself looking at the priest who’s talking about something. god’s plan, perhaps. jesus, our saviour, maybe. it’s the same priest that married her. i’m not listening but i know that he’s speaking in english and croatian. where’s the slovenian, buddy, her mother tongue? i feel the urge to elbow my brother and thereby show my discontent but i stop myself. it’s not appropriate. besides, we’re all feeling a sense of unease if nothing else and i don’t need to add to it.

i don’t want to be here. inside i’m like a child who just wants to go outside and play. outside i’m stoic, you know, appropriate.

i black out and find myself in yet another front row, walking out of the chapel. i feel like the head of the procession of the damned. the coffin is being carried by six men in front of me. i hold onto my father. a meek effort. if he were to fall i have no chance of holding him up. stop thinking about that, keep pretending that you’re holding him up. i start to cry out loud. i simply lower my head and let the tears go.

someone asks, are you ok?


of course, i don’t say that. it wouldn’t be appropriate.

yet why is it appropriate for someone else to ask if i’m ok at this very moment? shouldn’t i be allowed tears, at least a certain amount? it’s not like i’m throwing myself at the coffin, holding onto it for dear life, begging a higher being to take my life in exchange for hers. but i guess i can’t even cry at my sister’s funeral. i suck in the tears and hold my head up high. i can’t even mourn the way i want to.

good thing we have those cross wreaths, i guess.

i black out and find myself standing at an open grave. the late august toronto sun is burning. can i get a heat stroke? at least it’s not raining. every few moments the roar of a boeing engine cuts through the sky. oh right, the airport is really close. seems fitting. Barbara loved to travel. the priest’s lips are moving but i can’t hear a word he’s saying. he’s probably speaking in croatian again anyway. i am thankful for the boeing. the clamour of the plane’s engines give me a strange sense of peace, as if life will keep going no matter what. people are still going to travel, see the world, enjoy life. who cares what a priest has to say. plus, they drown out my incessantly inappropriate thoughts.

i look at other tombstones, at the names, at the dates. slovenian last names. well, there’s that, i guess.

i look at mom. at dad. at amadej. at Barbara’s husband, her widower. at other people i don’t recognise. all staring straight ahead, quietly sobbing. a haze covers my vision. a swarm of dragonflies buzzes about. how pretty they are, circling Barbara’s coffin. this makes no sense. the water is far but it is a humid day so i guess it does make some sense.

i watch the dragonflies and am filled with a sense of comfort.

i get a flower. we all do. a long stem rose. i can’t make out the colour. all i see is the green of the grass, the blue of the sky and the translucent wings of the dragonflies.

another boeing.

i place the rose on the coffin. everybody does. then the coffin is lowered into the darkness underneath, the wheels of the apparatus squeaking slightly. how quickly until the body starts to deteriorate? days, weeks? she’s all alone in that wooden box. all alone in the darkness. perfectly still in her beige dress and wedding flats. where the hell is the next beoing?

i black out and it’s over. people are walking their various ways. i turn around to see a friend from high school. i am incredibly happy to see him. i see more friends, friends of my sister’s whose siblings were my friends once. what a strange reunion.

i black out and find myself in a room full of many people, among many tables. i am no longer wearing stockings. i hear someone say it’s an open bar. i have a gin and tonic. it doesn’t kick in. i have another one. should i have the salmon? i suppose. i walk around. i’m genuinely happy to see everyone. one friend flew in from newfoundland. many drove here from ottawa. i am touched. i want to tell Barbara, look who’s here, you gotta talk to them. then i realise that i can’t. i realise that this isn’t a party. this is a funeral reception, a gathering of people in remembrance of a loved one. my loved one. my little sister who is dead. i look at my brother across the room and i think, it’s just you and me now, brother. you and me against this horrible world.

i black out and find myself waking up the next day. another sunny day. the funeral is done. i never finished that second gin and tonic. i never got tipsy. the overwhelming sadness knocked me out.

i look outside at the new day and in my head i start my solitary procession towards the rest of my life without my sister in it. a bleak prospect.

i want to black out but instead i get up.