September 14, 2010 by The Citron Review
by Gina Corso
It will be an explosively sunny day, music cranked so loud the speakers will vibrate. The call will come in as you drive home from a friend’s house. You’ll recognize the voice on the end of the line: an old captain from your soccer team. She’ll report that your star forward had been discovered dead in her dorm room. The memorial will be tomorrow night. Be there at eight pm sharp. The whole team will gather at the family’s home for support.
Eight o’clock sharp you will pull up in front of her parent’s home. In the gloaming, all that will be visible are the silhouettes of fellow mourners. Your heavy feet will shuffle down the hall of their home. It will be too warm, too welcoming. Nearly drown in the thickness of pungent flower bouquets, L’Air du Temps, and oceanic tears.
“You look so well, my dear, so good to see you,” the father will sputter. “We have always kept our eye on you, and it has been such a relief to see that you are well again, dear.”
He’ll thinly veil his references to your illicit drug use from a couple years back and you’ll realize that once again your family has disclosed your dirty laundry to another quasi-stranger. And yet, when you embrace him, you’ll feel a peculiar connection with this wilting patriarch. You’ll wryly observe that his mourning, just as easily, could have been that of your father’s.
As the week passes, you’ll find yourself wondering what hides around each corner. Pour over books of anatomy. Learn the difference between the aorta, and the pulmonary artery. One takes care of the lungs. Oxygen deficient blood flows through the vena cavae. Passing waves of electrical impulses signal life or death.
You will drive to the 20-year-old’s funeral, simultaneously cursing your slipping transmission and God as you shift gears. A soft haunting voice of a skeleton will leak through your car speakers. There will be a buzz in your ears as you parallel into a tight spot a block away from the church. You will saunter inside the same church that witnessed your first confession. Its walls will remember you. You will polite nod to a passersby and spy the family whose grief will freeze their faces in melancholy. You will remember that same family from long ago, cheering from the sidelines, wearing neon visors, cutting up slices of oranges for the girls at half time. The pews will line up in slim rows before you, and slender black ghosts will file in one by one. It will smell like fly dust and stale flowers. The silence will be contagious and will stifle your racing mind.
The clacking of dress shoes will break up the harmony of sniffling women. You’ll sit before the marble Jesus. You won’t want anyone looking at you, touching you, hugging you. The dark eyes of Jessica will stare back at you from her portrait on the altar; her dark hair long in this picture, but not long enough to reach home. From behind, the procession will march forth, and voices from the choir will croon: Remember when I moved in you? Every breath we drew was Hallelujah.
The music will reach a crushing crescendo. The minor fall, the major lift. You’ll see the father’s crashing waves of grief that will paralyze him in the aisle, while he follows his daughter’s casket. Wet, white, pale faces will follow. Monsignor will later explain that his white robe symbolizes this celebration of Jessie’s life. In fact, he’ll keep referencing this “celebration.” This will seem confusing.
You won’t feel, see, or hear any type of celebration. After all, who sings Leonard Cohen to celebrate? The last time you heard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” it was a particularly glum 4th of July, and you had been pasted to the floor of an abandoned apartment building for hours, knocked out, heroin coursing through your veins, waves of nausea ruling your body. You will take a deep breath and force that recollection back down, deep inside. Two rabbis will instruct the family, according to Jewish tradition, to grieve for one year, and then go live the rest of their lives. This is no celebration, you will think.
Her family will line up at the altar, one by one, and read off crumpled sheets of paper, bemoaning the loss of their beautiful, talented daughter. The mother will wail as the father speaks of Jessica’s unwavering religious faith, her righteous following of all that is good and pure and true. She will be remembered as the girl with principles and morals. She read Nietzsche, Socrates, Schopenhauer. She befriended and nurtured the neighborhood stray, who, coincidentally passed away the same day she did.
You will slip into your past. Thoughts will race wildly alongside all the times you threw your life about so recklessly, like a deck of cards up in the air: the stealing, the lying, the cheating, the incomprehensible demoralization. Your brother’s stolen watch; panhandling at Cherokee and Hollywood Boulevard; the hustling of your own death. Memories will lash you like a whip cracking against your bare skin. Your blood will be drawn.
At last, the monsignor will revisit the question lingering on everyone’s mind: Why? He will stand before the small family, as they clutch one another. Monsignor will share that this family must now become a well, a deep source of power and compassion for other sufferers, and their hearts must be forever opened to those repining amongst them. This will not seem enough. You will endure the last choral ensemble, mumbling the ending to the Cohen song: I did my best, it wasn’t much. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
Gina Corso is a 24-year-old student currently in her second year at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles, CA. She has been writing since she was old enough to pen fan letters to Angela Lansbury for her role in Murder She Wrote, although this autobiographical piece is her first publication.