I have had a fascination with death rituals since my first funeral. In the first performance of this piece, I metaphorically embalmed myself as I went through the process of how to prepare a corpse for a standard American funeral.
I sucked jello off a plate, chugged a bottle of seltzer with red food coloring, and made myself up in bright pink blush, red lipstick, and neon-blue eyeshadow. Too literal.
Anyway, after revisiting this, I think I am on to something. I wrote a first draft of this around Halloween time, here is a bit of the second:
My grandpa died in 1996. My First Funeral.
I am extremely allergic to pollen. The bundles of white flowers with fleshy petals and a third-world odor rim my eyes in red and give my nose permission to leak.
I ask mom if I can take them away, and she doesn’t answer.
I keep asking her while she is trying to talk to Aunt Sally whom I only met once at some other mandatory family thing that I can’t remember.
Mom takes me to the corner and tells me the flowers are here so that people can be nice and so that we can’t smell Grandpa.
I can still smell Grandpa through my 5 layers of yellow and green mucus.
Who are they fooling?
I leave mom because Aunt Sally is boring, and I want to see Grandpa.
I perch next to the casket and touch his face because I love him and that is my way of saying goodbye.
The concoction of this syrupy, rubbery aerosol spray and all the makeup on his face comes off on my fingers.
Underneath, his real skin looks like nauseated snow.
I cry and hope no one notices.
Me crying or the nauseated snow spot left in the center of his forehead.
I don’t tell mom. I think dad saw me, though, because he places his hand under my shoulder blades and takes me into that other weird room where grandpa isn’t.
He says: “I’ve always thought funerals were kind of strange. I just try to think of him as he lived, and not look at the shell in the box.”
I think of grandpa sailing on the ocean. Dad takes my hand and looks into my eyes.
“But we have to be here to be polite, do you think you can hang on for just a couple more hours?”
I nod and tell him:
“Only living people should be allowed to play dress up.”