We gathered there, improbably, given the circumstances, at a nearby bar, all of us together once again. Gone were the Metallica and Megadeth tee-shirts, the sparkly headbands left at home, retired for the night.
They’d been replaced by somber suits and dress clothes, I tottered on impossibly high heels as we sat there together again, all of us together again, coming from various parts of the state to be together this time, drinking whiskey and vodka to drown the voices in our heads.
I remembered drunkenly as we ordered our first round, that the last time we’d all been together and dressed up was for my wedding three years before. As the happy memory of that played in my mind I was haltingly reminded that one of us was not sitting a block away, cold, hard and dead back then. She was alive and vibrant, laughing and joking with us all.
Suddenly, I didn’t want to remember anything.
To onlookers, we must have looked like quite the jovial bunch of people, obviously close friends who knew each other so well, the comfortable familiarity was palpable. I alternated between snuggling the man on my right and the man on the left, neither of them my husband.
We laughed loudly and comfortably at each other with each other our mouths wide open, the picture of pure bliss. But was it? Was this bliss? To nearby patrons, I’m sure that’s what they saw as they formed mental pictures of this motley band of brothers'”a sister or two thrown in for good measure'”these people out for a night on the town, drinking to life, to liberty, to the pursuit of happyness.
Not one of us was happy, I’ll tell you that for sure. Not a single one of us was happy to be there, to be together for this night. Happy people don’t have these conversations.
“When I die,” I slurred drunkenly. “I don’t want any shitty fucking flowers at my funeral. I’m appointing you there Kristin, to make damn sure that no one sends me fucking filler flowers. No carnations, no baby’s breath, and no goddamned fucking lilies. I fucking hate lilies.” I spat this out as though the words tasted bitter and mean.
I sat back, everyone laughing without a trace of happiness, as I slurped the last bit of whiskey from the bottom of my glass.
“And NO OPEN CASKETS. You all don’t need to see what I look like when I’m dead and made up in clown makeup. So, you’ve got to make me up like Gene Simmons from KISS. You’ll have to somehow pin my tongue out like he does. Then any sick fuck that wants to see my corpse will get quite the shock.’ This seemed to be uproariously hilarious, as we all pounded the table, laughing but not really laughing.
Scott started next. “When I die,” he said joyfully without joy. “When I die, I want you all to stuff me like the guy from Weekend At Bernie’s.” We laughed from within, all of us mentally picturing Scottie in a lawn chair, being rolled in and out of rooms. “And I want a big bonfire and a kegger.” We tittered, remembering all of the bonfires Scott had thrown in his parent’s backyard. “Then, at the end of the night, I want you to throw me on the bonfire.”
We laughed so hard at the thought that we were all left clutching our sides, a painful cramp had formed there.
We drank long and we drank hard, each of us processing the magnitude of what had just happened together but in our own way. I was left clutching a man, walking drunkenly back to his car with him propping me up and helping me past the slick patches of ice. He would have carried me if I needed him to, I knew this and found this an unlikely comfort.
It was cold, freezing cold, I knew logically, but I felt nothing. For the first time in a week I was comfortably numb. It was only then that I realized how much I’d been hurting, the relief I felt at blissfully unfeeling anything at all.
Tomorrow I would wake up and feel it all over again, the pain, the anguish, the incredible hangover, but tonight I was finally free.