|I roll on deodorant so I can smell nice. I put on the long socks, the kind that peer out when your pants cuff doesn’t quite meet with your shoe. I put on a white shirt, starched and pressed. I grab my tie. Geoffrey Beane, burgundy with electric yellow stripes. I tie it in a Windsor knot, a strangle-hold choking my wind pipe.
I sit in the backseat of a car and watch as the world spins by. Frosty clouds. Smiling faces. Sons and daughters and fathers and mothers still caught up in the mad dash of life, the world still spinning while I am forever stuck.
I arrive at the funeral and everything smells like lilacs, pinching the air with its melancholy fragrance. My nostrils are held prisoner. Flowers circling the room, and every person I see doused in lilac perfume. Lilac, lilac, lilac, lilac.
And I just can’t wait to take off this tie.
I see a boy lying in this black box. He used to laugh. He used to watch Toy Story and dress up like Buzz Lightyear on Halloween. He used to play Crash Bash with me and turn the power off whenever I was winning. Now he’s a defunct robot.
When he was alive the world was so noisy. Everywhere I went my ears were ringing. There was booming laughter. There were bells and whistles, chimes and beeps. Explosive giggles, dynamite chit-chat, trala-la-la-la, C4 palaver and firesnappers. Then he died and it was like the world had been submerged underwater and all the sound was slurped away. Mute-button tears. Mimewalkers. Mimetalkers. All that was left was a rip-roaring silence, the kind that’s deafening.
He used to crawl under the table when I was trying to eat my lunch. I’d go down after him and empty out my brown paper bag and we’d share sandwiches and junk food. Then we’d run around and pretend we were Buzz Lightyear flying to infinity and beyond with Cheetoh dust on our fingertips.
Is that boy really somewhere in this shell they call a corpse? His skin’s now metallic and orange. The color of Cheetoh dust.
Mom tells me to kiss him goodbye, last chance kiddo. But I don’t want to. I just want to take off this tie.
So we sit down and people cry and everything’s lilac, lilac, lilac and I swing my legs and cry too and I think my tie gets tighter and I want to take it off but I know I can’t and they close the casket and Buzz Lightyear and his adventures are lost forever and not a sound is made.
We drive again, this time to the cemetery and it’s bright and sunny and reeking of lilac. The perfect day. The black box is lowered into the dirt and I wonder if he’s alive, really alive, but just momentarily resting, the power turned off like when he used to lose at Crash Bash, but we’d always turn it back on, and maybe a mistake was just made, and he’s just playing a little trick on the rest of us and he’s waking up right now. But how’s he gonna get out of a locked box underneath six feet of dirt beneath a carpet of rock and dirt and worms?
There are lilacs in our tears rolling down our cheeks and the dragonflies that flutter around our heads. There are lilacs in the empty memories that now throb in our hearts.
And once we can’t see the box no more my uncle hands us all a balloon. Yellow, his favorite color. We’re going to release them in the air and they’re all going to float up into the sky like a giant balloon army and he’s going to catch them up in Heaven.
“But won’t they pop once they leave the atmosphere?” I ask my dad.
He shushes me and grabs my hand. I just want to take off this tie.
The yellow balloons are released, swirling up into the sky like a school of tadpoles, faster, faster, bobbing, racing, trying to outpace each other. I’m the last one to release my balloon, my little yellow angel, and I hope it’s the only one that makes its way up to Heaven into his hand. And he catches it and remembers, remembers, remembers.
I release the angel. And I take in that lilac as I watch the balloon float up into the ambient blue, into infinity and beyond…