by Tamuira Reid
Mike and Ingrid, New York City
I sleep with her. I sleep next to a box with my wife in it. And I probably always will. I know it sounds crazy and people would shake their heads and give a whole lot of poor Mikes’sif they found out about it but I don’t give a fuck. I can’t let go. I can’t. Like, I literally can’t. I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m wrapped-up around the box like it’s her.
The super came over to fix the radiator and saw the box in the bed. He didn’t say anything, finished his work and left. But he knew what was in that box. His wife Cheryl died of cancer and he has a box, too. It’s on an altar next to his TV.
Right before she died, Ingrid told me don’t you dare put me in the ground, Mike. Anywhere but the ground. We had never talked about cremation and burial or really death much before. She was thirty-two when she died. It just never came up.
Vera and Lynn, Ohio
We met when we were in our twenties and came out to our families together. It was hard back then, telling people you were gay. I’m an 81 year-old woman and it’s still hard. People can be pretty ignorant. But none of that bothered Vera much. She never really did care too much what people thought of her, or us. Let them talk, she’d always tell me. Makes us look much more interesting than we really are. It’s been almost thirty years since she died and I can still hear her voice in my head. I know people worry about this, forgetting what their loved ones sound like. Never been my problem. Maybe I’m lucky or cursed, who knows?
Car accident. Drunk driver. I don’t like to talk about the accident. What’s to say about it? Some jerk wiped her off the face of the earth that night. He’ll be in jail for a long time and she’s gone and life is just really, really unfair, isn’t it? I had her cremated and spread her ashes in our garden out back. Still think it’s the best garden in the neighborhood, hands down. And I have to say the roses have never looked better. Maybe that is a little grotesque to think, but Vera always did lean towards the dark side of things. She’d appreciate me using her as fertilizer.
I’m moving to Cleveland next week, to my son’s home. My granddaughter, Nina, brilliant young thing, is heading off to Smith and I’m taking her room. It’s large enough but I don’t want to leave my house. Maybe I’ll hide in the garden.
Robert and Giuseppe, New Jersey
My pops was almost sixty when he passed. Heart attack. No surprise there really. Guy drank and smoked since he was kid growing up in Naples. First time he took me there I was shocked, man. All those people and the cars and then whole families crammed onto one motorcycle, just flying down the streets. It was crazy. And best damn trip of my life. We stayed with my uncle Vic, pop’s twin brother. Commercial fisherman who lived alone and made his own wine. Told me he’d never been to the States. And why would he? Italy is fucking perfect. Vic – such a cool guy. He died right after we left, on the way home from the docks. Heart attack. Runs in the family. The Gamberti men have shit for hearts. At least my future wife doesn’t have to wonder how I’ll go.
My pops fished too, guess it’s kind of like religion in my family. And maybe for my pops it was an excuse to get away from my mother for a while. She’s kind of… intense. Yeah, we’ll leave it at that. He taught me how to fish when I was five. I couldn’t catch nothing but a cold out there. I was a goofy little shit and real skinny and kept getting pulled out by the line but pops would make me feel ten feet tall, you know? He had this way of making everyone around him smile, even if you were a total loser. Amore, he’d say, with that giant fucking handlebar moustache. You are smarter then these fish. Stop trying so hard. And then I stopped stressing and caught my first trout.
His ashes are in the lake. Set him free last June. Took the boat out at sunset, had a couple beers and fished with him one last time. It was windy and I didn’t catch shit.
Alma and Matteo, The Bronx
I had a special urn made for my baby boy. It’s red, white and blue because he loved his country. He wanted to be president one day, the first Puerto Rican president! He was a good kid, always helpful. I didn’t have to ask him to do his cleaning or his homework, not like his brother, my oldest. That one is a real piece of work. Wouldn’t get off the sofa if the ceiling fell on top of him. It’s all this weed the teenagers smoke. Wasn’t like that when I was coming up. But he’s living with his dad now out in Yonkers. Good trade school there for him. Wants to be en electrician like my father. But he’s too lazy.
Matteo was different. I love both my sons to the moon but Matteo was special. I used to joke he was my ride or die. We’d joke a lot, always laughing. I do hair for a living and I’d come home really tired, my feet hurting, and he’d be waiting for me with Epsom salt he got from the fancy health store place next to the bodega. This will help, I swear. He’d seen a commercial on TV for Epsom salt and wanted to cure me.
We ate together every night. Right here at this same table, since he was a baby. You can see the scratch marks in the wood from his ruler. He would do his homework at the table and talk to me while I cooked dinner. It was our favorite time of the day. He would have mac-n-cheese every night of the week if I’d let him. And a glass of chocolate milk in the big plastic cup with the twisty straw. Look, I’m on a beach! I’m drinking a margarita!
I carry his box with me to the kitchen each night. I don’t like to eat alone.
Tamuira and John, California
I kept his ashes in an empty xanax bottle because that’s all I could find. I was at his house and had just picked up his ashes from the town morgue. I scooped up some of him, a dark gray sand, almost glittery if I tilted it towards the light. He was beautiful even like this.
I carried that Xanax bottle around with me for months. Maybe a year? Waiting for the right moment, the right place, the right universe to release him into. I tucked him into my pocket, into my purse, behind books. In the nightstand drawer. Wherever he would fit and not be found.
There was a bridge. One of his favorites. Old and yellow and magical still, even with all the tourists. My little sister was there. We leaned into each other. We hugged. I took our father out from my pocket, opened the brown bottle and watched him fly out and over the water. I wanted to go with him or I wanted him to stay. Impossible things, I thought. I always want impossible things. I remember the sky was full of stars. I remember I looked out from the bridge for any bits of ash but he was already gone.