Poor Opal. Late at night she wrong-turned and drove her sleek new Subaru into the depths of an industrial waste-lake. She had plans to meet her mom the next morning at the yoga shelter for an hour of repose, but never showed. (Corpses cannot hold an asana – unless rigor mortis catches them in the Lotus or Downward Facing Dog). Their next reunion would take place in the morgue, where her mother rested twitchy eyes on the bloated cadaver. Fuck.
Mourners flocked to the funeral home. Opal glimmered, set in a poplar case on lavender satin. Their wide eyes lingered, hoping she might wake. Her father stood at the entrance, greeted the incoming bereaved. Focused his filmy stare toward the room where he’d set his dead daughter and pumped the clammy palms of passers-by. Flashed his sullen smile and thanked them for their condolences. Her sister stumbled across the parlor consoling family, friends and strangers. And her mom disappeared – ghosted off like her eldest daughter. Couldn’t bare her blotchy face to the well-intentioned crowd. Newcomers entered on unsteady feet; then tiptoed into Opal’s room while the elevator music played. Stewed there for half an hour, small-talked with long-lost acquaintances. Wept as the sight of Opal’s cold body marinated in their minds.
Grief overtook the tiny place again when the throng returned for services. They packed in tight. Some friends from high school boozed up before – stood in back, hidden by a shroud of whiskey. Wouldn’t confront the death with straight heads. So they blended into the bolts of black cotton, lace and satin. Watched the whirling precession and battled their unsteady eyes handicapped by cathartic gulps of ethanol. Opal’s stoic sister stood first at the podium. Read her eulogy to the hysterical audience and didn’t tremble once. Read the thing like she’d practiced it since the day she first understood what sister meant.
Then Lula Rose collapsed. She’d felt sick since she heard about her friend’s fatal accident. Came back home from school just to say goodbye. But soon started choking on the thick air and felt woozy from claustrophobia. Sweat greased her neck’s nape and white patches marred her sight. Breathed heavy as her body shook. Looked past the rows of heads to her departed friend and would’ve folded in half, if not for those living bodies cuddled in so close to her. Wobbled through the cluster and past the threshold of Opal’s room and dropped at the foot of the stairs in the room next door. Plunged her head between her knees and sobbed. Sat back up and listened to the two eulogies that followed. A poem by a friend, and an advertisement for the yoga shelter, where Opal’d been working. Last, the priest babbled on for an hour about things that Opal had never paid mind to like Jesus and the priest’s daily schedule. Sounded like he’d gone with those high school friends before the funeral for a couple swigs. Lula Rose clicked her tongue. Thought about who she might like to speak at her funeral – probably would want to hold auditions. Poor Opal, thought Lula Rose. If only she had known.
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