The fact it was an open coffin affair was an affront on more levels than any mere mortal should contemplate. Her hair was still matted and crusted with dried blood, the scent of which permeated the sanctuary like incense from one of the unwholesome and unholy ceremonies in Lovecraft stories. Her eyes were swollen shut, and the gauze was still in her nostrils as if to keep blood from seeping from her shattered nose.
No amount of postmortem makeup could cover those bruises and contusions, giving the illusion she was sleeping, as is fashion in the funerary business. No more than any makeup could've removed that waxy, slimy gray glaze my mother wore over her flesh in her last days. My fists clenched and unclenched as I looked at her. Though I knew, rationally, what I was looking at was only mutilated meat, I was deeply offended by the open box in front of me. I wanted to stab someone. Slowly, and several times.
"Dad, how could they do that to her?" My daughter asked me, mortified. I didn't have an answer. Sabina said nothing, just placing a comforting hand upon my shoulder, understanding my unspoken wish to step outside and collect myself.
"It's hard to see her like this, isn't it?" Her mother asked me as I walked out. The exact thing she said that first terrible night in the sickhouse. I shook my head, but said nothing this time.
It wasn't my first rodeo. Nor, I fear, will it be the last. Still, it is not easy to gaze upon the dead. Anyone who would tell you different is daft or trying to sell something.
The gypsy was outdoors smoking. She made no effort to remind me I had stopped the habit as I bummed one from her and lit up. The smoke clawing my asthmatic lungs was both comforting and disgusting. Her eyes were red-rimmed from sobbing. Perhaps she too was offended by that display in the open box. Neither of us spoke, instead gazing out at a rather impressive sunset over the necropolis.
A group of strangers, family perhaps, pulled up. I growled softly, though the gypsy heard it and shot me a glance. She finished her cigarette and went to greet them.
"I'll catch you inside," I said.
"I need you here," the gypsy said and I shook my head. Her voice became forceful; "Stay your ass right here!"
I growled again, louder this time. The smoke streaming from my nostrils and the corners of my mouth like a dragon. I was not about to be talked to that way by anyone, even one of my friends.
"Please," she said, switching her tactic and tone. "This isn't about me or you. It's for her."
And I tossed out my bummed cigarette. I clasped my hands tightly, but politely, behind my back. The snarl on my face faded into a mask of civility as the strangers approached.
"Fucking perfect," I muttered under my breath.
I'm awake. My eyes fly open to the darkness of the pulled-curtain bedroom. My left hand is hanging off the bed. I know this because Whistler's cold nose is nudging it, letting me know that he and the other two canids wouldn't mind breakfast and being let outdoors.
The shards of dream are like sharp glass, cutting my half-conscious psyche. I can still smell the blood and hear the gypsy's voice. Before taking a large gulp of water, I swear my mouth feels the same as it would after smoking a bummed cigarette.
I never made it to the bruja's funeral, just the public memorial. It wasn't because of not being invited, but it was short notice. I gave up the seats reserved for myself, my daughter, and Sabina for other family and/or friends, feeling it was the honorable thing to do. An alienist might say my dream reflects a certain sort of guilt over not going.
Of course, an alienist might say I secretly want to fuck my own mother...
The bruja has been an equation within the mathematics of my thoughts as of late. I have all sorts of suppositions as to why. The gypsy told a story of going with her daughter and Madam Lung to find the grave, but it didn't pan out. I mentioned a story or two about her recently. Songs I hear when listening to either the radio or the stereo. It could be argued all of these theories have their own validity.
I wonder what, if anything, she might say about the stories I've told lately. She seemed to think I was possessed of a certain type of magic, and would repeatedly tell me that, no matter how much I argued the point with her. My birthday is in two and a half days, and she would at least always phone me on it, if not magic up some ways and means to come and hang out. A year ago, I reconciled myself to the fact my mother wasn't going to be giving me a ring on that day, or any other one for that matter.
This year I do the same with the bruja. Soon, I'll be another year older, and she'll be thirty-seven forever. The very thought is devastating.
Earlier in the day, I caught myself remembering around my thirtieth birthday. I had just gotten involved with a vegan girl. Another of my friends was rather curious about this and mentioned his curiosity whilst hanging out with the bruja and I.
"You like to eat meat!" He said. "How does that work?"
"Let's just say I've developed a taste for vegetarian..." I paused long enough to lick my lips. "...cuisine."
A week after that birthday, the bruja showed up at my place for us to go to coffee. She brought my belated birthday gift, which was a book titled The Philosophy of Punk, but there was also a button for me to place on my satchel that read; Go Vegetarian! This, of course, had nothing to do with my dietary habits. We laughed about that for weeks after the fact.
There will be no more awesome subtle gifts like that. Not from her. No more bottles of fine Irish whiskey, some from the distillery itself. Not from her. No more books I just have to read. Not from her. This bothers me.
The gypsy relates in her story of trying to find the grave how they all thought they heard the bruja laughing. I can see that, because the idea of her being confined to anything, let alone a fucking grave, seems to be an affront on more levels than any mere mortal should contemplate. Part of me, willing to indulge in superstition, wonders if on my birthday I'll hear her voice;
"Happy birthday, Dirty Uncle Bob, you misanthropic bastard..."
Tell you the truth, that might be a phantasm I'd welcome...
"How I wish
wish your were here,
We're just two lost souls
swimming in a fish bowl..."-Pink Floyd