The International Writers Magazine: Minnesota
The Cemetery and Me
The dog days of summer were biting. I felt the humidity of this mid-August afternoon sinking its teeth into me; the air so thick I could almost gnaw it myself.
I rolled down my window. I reached across the bench seat and did the same. Sliding a five-dollar pair of gas station sunglasses over my eyes, I tilted the sun visor down and let the keys fall into my right hand. I started the black pickup, backed out of the driveway, and sped off.
I headed east. Other than that, I didn’t know where I was going. But I didn’t care. As I shifted into fifth, I tried to put her out of my mind. The road was going to be my main focus—not her this time. Sweet and endearing one second, pretending I didn’t exist the next. And I was dumb enough to keep falling for it. Well not anymore. She had tortured me enough with her stupid mind games. I deserved better. I stepped harder on the accelerator, cranked up the rock tunes, and took the winding highway out of town.
The landscape soon became a blur. I was looking ahead, but I couldn’t see a thing. I was blinded by anger, hating myself for letting my guard down. She got to me when I was weak, offered to be my friend, pretended to listen when I was in a deep depression, my long relationship about to end. The ceaseless text messages, the marathon phone conversations, the short-lived breakups with her boyfriend…all part of some twisted game. Because when my girlfriend and I separated, I was suddenly all alone. I rarely saw her pretty face. My so-called friend wouldn’t answer her phone.
These memories made me sick to my stomach. And my foot pushed the gas further down with each revolting image. I thought about every time I had the chance to tell her to piss off, and every time she lured me back in. My cell wouldn’t ring for days, but when it did, I’d foolishly pick up. My fury was always quelled by her voice, somehow making me believe she actually liked me. So I’d forgive her time and time again. I screamed. The pedal was now to the floor.
The tar ahead soon turned into gravel. Dust violently flew up and engulfed the truck, following me like the ominous cloud, the evil woman, who had tailed me for the past eternity. Suddenly, the road came to a T. Right or left? Hell, nothing I did lately seemed right. I turned north.
The afternoon wore on, but it wasn’t wearing out. It was getting hotter in fact. The intense sun baked the two-lane highway; vapor rising like steam coming off a hot cup of Joe. Furthermore, the black pickup was a magnifying glass in this sultry weather. Beads of sweat ran down my forehead, fogging my shades. I chucked them onto the passenger seat. Damn broken air conditioner.
I drove on. I stuck my hand out the window, waving it up and down in the Minnesota air. The wind ran up my arm and into my T-shirt, making it puff out. I liked it; it was refreshing. Then, an iron archway caught my eye. Behind it were myriad markers. To the right, hanging on a chain link fence was a weathered white sign. “St. Patrick Cemetery,” the charcoal letters spelled out.
The truck idled just outside the limits of this city of the dead. I sat there. I pondered why I wanted to go into a graveyard of all places. In that instant, however, it looked more like a sanctuary than a cemetery. These people would actually listen instead of wait to talk. They wouldn’t constantly fish for compliments. And they sure as hell wouldn’t tease. I drove in.
Steering my truck onto a small stretch of asphalt, I parked in front of a large utility shed. I stepped out and surveyed the verdant graveyard. It looked beautiful. Healthy lawns and green trees dominated the funerary grounds. But something was different. The noise from the highway had disappeared and a cool breeze blew through the branches, drying my sweat almost immediately. I had goose bumps. An eerie, yet peaceful feeling swept over me. I headed for the headstones.
Touring the tombs, I examined the markers. They varied drastically. Some were gigantic crucifixes which stabbed high into the sky. Others were smaller in stature, naturally sporting shorter crosses. And some were almost hidden, so tiny that I was in danger of tripping over them if I didn’t watch my step. The vast majority were old—many built in the early 1900s, and some as far back as the 1870s.
Nevertheless, all the graves were well kept and still showcasing their intricate details. I then remembered that Minnesota was declared a state in 1858. I wondered what kinds of people were on the other side of the grass. Who were they? Native Americans? Norwegians? Germans? I began taking note of the chiseled names. Aside from some of the new plots near the entrance, they were all Irish, making sense of the necropolis’s title.
Although the day was getting later, everything seemed to stop as I made my way through the marble town. It was silent. There was something tranquil about the dead air. Moreover, no one else was around, causing me to feel like I was the only one on Earth for a while. It was just the cemetery and me, and for the first time in forever, my mind was free. For the first time in forever, I hadn’t thought about her.
Completing my visit of God’s acre, I made sure to stop by any sections I had missed earlier. I slowly walked atop the asphalt leading to my truck. I felt good. I was calm. Taking one last look around, I climbed in.
Just as I was about to turn the key, I heard three loud beeps. There was a text message waiting for me. It could only be one person. I opened the glove compartment, grabbed my phone, and turned it off. A smile took over my face.
I started the black pickup, backed out of the driveway, and sped off.
© Tyrel Nelson December 2009
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