By Randall DeVallance
There was the death, of
course, and the funeral and a week later, Marianne visited the grave for the first time. She took along
a small bouquet of roses, white ones, and laid them on the grass in front of
the headstone. Knowing she needed this time alone, I waited by the car and
smoked a cigarette. I fully admit that I was indifferent to her plight, but I
had no desire to upset her further, and so kept myself at a distance where I
would not have to become involved.
The person who died I did not know. But to Marianne it was someone important, which I guess made her
important to me. It was sunny and cold, and a breeze made Marianneís long, blonde hair swirl and dance like the clouds
of smoke I pushed from my lips. It was the only thing distinguishing her from
one of the monuments: she stood perfectly erect, head bowed, hands clasped in
front of her waist. Dressed all in black--the heels and the stockings, the peacoat and beret--she seemed only more pale.
An hour passed that way, but I was not impatient with
her. The cemetery was not unappealing to me:
aesthetically, I had the deepest appreciation for it. The exactness of the
monuments, the obvious care that went into their making, from the grandest
mausoleum to the most modest grave marker, spoke of a sincerity that had
seemingly disappeared from our lives. It had retreated here, to a place where
cynicism could never intrude, where the source of all our dread and bitter joys
was memorialized, spreading out beyond the edge of
sight, in every direction, to a place my eyes could not reach.
When the sun had fallen lower, filtered gold through
the bows of the oak trees that dotted the grounds, I summoned the courage to
speak Marianneís name. But she made no answer,
and I could see then that she was already too far gone, that no matter what I
said or how I pleaded, she was simply not ready to leave. Perhaps she would
never be ready. Coming up behind her, I leaned in and kissed her one last time
on the cheek. Her eyes remained fixed on the headstone as I got in the car and
drove away, leaving her to recede in the rearview mirror.
Copyright 2004 © Randall DeVallance
Randall DeVallance is a writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. His stories have appeared in the anthology Dirt (The New Yinzer), Deek Magazine, McSweeney's, Eyeshot, Facsimilation, and many other publications in print and online. His first novel, Dive, was published this past fall by Exquisite Cadaver Press.
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