By M.C. Schmidt
We come to the end of this block, to the north side of the downtown cemetery, eye-level with weathered gravestones, the dead nestled into a rising hill and secured by a bailey and wrought iron fence.
“Again?” I say.
“This is where the street ends.” Her little shrug.
Violet walks on, up the ramp and through the gate. I watch her sandals follow the painted yellow stripe, worn now to uneven dashes and dots.
On the fence, a metal sign memorializes the years of these grounds’ operation, but age has rusted it unreadable, the cemetery itself now a sort of corpse. The city, swelled to its borders, is here made to stop in grudging respect, streets that long to be built stilted by this constellation of crumbling shale and granite, obvious intersections unrealized, the dead still having their say.
On the street, cars begin to slow and fall into formation at a changed light, their drivers’eyes settling on me. I remove myself up the ramp.
Violet’s ahead of me, rows of graves between us, her head lowered like some pious angel come to shepherd these lost souls. I call out the same joke as last time: “Barbara! They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
She ignores me, doesn’t get it maybe.
I frown at her from this distance.
There are other places we could walk, a school with a playground at the other end of our street. There, I could push her on the swings, be cute. I wouldn’t mind a push myself, honestly, what with everything gone so serious lately. Just the two of us, flying, close our eyes and jump and see if we can hold hands all the way to the ground.
Dumb, but that’s where my head is. All day, I’ve felt a louche in my blood, looked forward to getting off and coming home, though maybe tonight she’d want to stay in. A person can only feel lousy for so many hours a day, after all, and for so many days in a row. But death is life in a steal town, my father under a spilt crane load when I was nine, Violet’s father last winter, her mother right now losing to that same familiar cancer, her plot waiting beside her husband’s in the cemetery across town, the one we never go to,Violet instead walking me here each evening like she’s rehearsing with these wizened strangers before she can perform her grief for the unaccustomed dead man who was once her life’s only essential man.
At the bottom of the hill, the light changes, I hear cars roll forward. Engine and radio sound advance and recedes like stones thrown by the living to protest this cemetery’s reminder of finality.I walk to her, my partner since childhood, taller now, hips and a bust like the beautifully exaggerated sarcophagus of my childhood playmate whom I married at twenty not twenty months ago, promising myself to her until this town forces her to walk alone.
About M.C Schmidt
M.C. Schmidt holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University. His recent work has appeared on Litro Online and Every Day Fiction.