Body Lays, Body Lies

by Timothy S.

You’re driving your car in a town you’ve never been, but it all seems familiar. You take off your sunglasses to get a better look. You roll down your window because the summer sun is making it too hot inside the vehicle.

When you stop your car at a red traffic light, you look over to your passenger seat and see a pamphlet and pick it up. You can’t read the words because the letters keep changing. The numbers are changing too. There’s a person’s picture on it.

A car behind you honks and you drop the pamphlet between the seats. The light turned green. You’re trying to remember the face on the pamphlet. Or was it a picture of a house on the pamphlet?

The picture was a house with an awning above its front door. There it is up ahead, on the right. You put on your blinker and pull into the parking lot behind the house.

You step out of your car and stretch. It feels like you’ve been driving for years. With your nose hovering above your toes, you notice your shoes are really polished, but you can’t see your face in them. You walk towards the front door and the autumn leaves crunch beneath your feet.

You walk in the house and someone greets you inaudibly and hands you another copy of the pamplet. You can’t make out the words on it. Was it a name? You thought you saw the word October. You were born in October.

Where’d the picture on the pamphlet go?

Most of the wooden doors in the house are closed except for a pair propped open ahead. An organ plays its music and cradles the house to sleep with its languid melody. You put your ear against the cream-colored hallway to hear the notes better. The music’s coming up from the floor too. You listen with your feet.

You walk in the room with rows of people sitting in wooden chairs with cream-colored coushins. You can’t see anyone’s face as they all look forward. You stand in line on the side of the room behind a few people.

There’s one window on the opposite side of the room. It’s really bright outside with everything covered in the wintry snow.

You look back forward and now there are a dozen people in line ahead of you. You don’t know if it will take you a decade to get up front, so you step off the line and sit in the front row of chairs right near the coffin.

Sitting up front, you look behind you and still only see the backs of people’s heads. You look back up front and see someone kneel in front of the coffin.

“We were best friends,” a familiar voice says. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”

The person with the familiar voice turns around and you see who it is. You try to call their name but no sound leaves your mouth.

Someone else kneels in down in front of the coffin.

“You were so sweet,” she says. “You were the younger of us both, but I always looked up to you. How did it come to this?”

You already know who it is before she turns around and you try to call her name. When she turns around, she stares towards you. You think she heard you, but then you realize she was looking at whomever was sitting behind you.

Before the next person kneels down in front of the coffin, you shout, “Dad!” Someone taps you from behind and shushes you. You don’t bother turning around because you know you won’t see their face.

Dad kneels and whispers into the coffin, and from your seat you can hear him say, “I never expected this from you. I guess I never knew you and never will. You’re dead to me.”

Dad stands up and you see him walk over to your best friend and sister. You get up from your chair and stand in front of them, but they don’t recognize you.

You walk over to the coffin and see yourself inside, and then you stand and watch as each person in line takes their turn to look. Every time someone new comes up to say their farewells, the body changes its appearance. To one person who kneels, you’re smiling. To another who kneels, you look sad. Someone else looks down and sees a nice suit on you. Your grandmother walks over and sees you wearing the school unifrom you wore in fifth grade. Someone walks over but doesn’t kneel in front of the coffin, and you notice the body’s hands holding a knife.

You look back to your friend, sister, and father. You’re angry at their tears. You start shouting at them, and this time they look at you to listen.

You say, “I don’t know who you think that is in there. That’s not me. I’m right here.”

They look away from you and at one another. They embrace one another with tears flowing and heads shaking.

You feel electricity in your chest. Tiny bolts of lightning eminate from your palms. You reach down into the coffin and place your hands on the body’s chest. The body’s eyes open. A hand is raised and its fingers tighten along the edge of the coffin like vines on a tree.

Your father, sister, and friend look over at the hand on grasping at the coffin’s side and their tears stop. They gasp and smile. They run over to the body and look down. The body’s eyes stare at the family. Its mouth doesn’t change; its lips are a line.

The family’s smiles fade.

“It’s not the same.”

“It’ll never be the same.”

“It’s too late.”

Your father reaches to the coffin lid and you have to pull your arms away before they are crushed as he closes it. The people you know back away from you and three people wearing outfits just like yours walk up to both sides of the coffin. They each grab at a coffin handle and then look at you, waiting for you to grab the last of the four handles.

The four of you carry the coffin outside and walk through the bareleafed woods with a trail of people behind you. There’s mud all over everyone’s shoes as they muck towards a lonely graveyard on the other side of the trees.

The coffin is down in the ground before you know it, and you see everyone has started walking away. You grab the shovel stuck in a mound of dirt nearby and start burying your body.

When you pat down the last of the dirt and hold the shovel over your shoulder, a warm spring rain begins to fall from the sky. The water droplets ping against the metal spade of the shovel near your right ear and you feel the mixture of dirt and water drip down the handle and over your hand.

When you look at the gravestone, you see the words HERE LIES ME.

You toss the shovel aside and stare at the gravestone. For the first time, you cry. You think about what the people in the funeral home saw when they looked in the casket—some of it true, some of it untrue. Some of it true even though you didn’t want it to be. Some of it untrue even though you wanted it to be. They wanted who the person down in the grave was, not you.

Strangers who weren’t at the funeral walk by and tell you that it’ll be okay. It’s so nice of you to spend so much time remembering whomever that is down there. Some people who were at the funeral walk by and ask what you’re still doing there.

You stand there all spring. It keeps raining and nothing comes back. No flowers bloom in the grass, no leaves sprout on the trees, and no hand digs up from the dirt.

You hear footsteps behind you walking up the hill towards you. It’s the love of your life. They ask what you’ve been doing there on the hill. The family needs you back home. You point to the gravestone and say it’s who you’re supposed to be. They read the words on the gravestone and say they don’t know who that is and walk away.

You hear thunder. You try to step away but your feet have sunk down into the dirt, all the way up to your shins. You can’t pull your legs out. Vines like long fingers crawl out of the ground and coil up your feet and legs.

Many days and many nights pass, and then it’s a miracle. Your dream came true. You’re just like the person in the grave now. You, too, are dead.