This is a piece of fiction that I can only preface by saying I have been spending way too much time at Groman Eden Mortuary in the last two years. Or at least, I thought I had until I overheard one of the undertakers discussing soil consistency. A cemetery may be a Bet HaChaim, a house of life — that’s a metaphor I understand — but I never want to think of it as a house of the mundane.
I finally read that book you gave me. The one you handed me that afternoon, in the park, and I dropped, and got dirt in the pages. I’m sorry I dropped it, that was a stupid thing to do, and I didn’t mean to and I wish I could undo it but I can’t and now there’s dirt on those pages forever, you can’t wash a book. And I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner, I don’t know why I didn’t, I meant to, but you know, things got in the way, I was really busy at work, it’s not an excuse, I know, but there it is, I said it, and I would come home and just want to relax and not think and be alone or I’d want to spend time with you and not think and be not alone. I meant to read the book sooner, I really did, so that we could talk about it, about the plot, the nuances, the language, the metaphors, the characters, the themes—even now all I want to do is talk about the style, the writing, even the title, but I feel like I can’t, I can only talk about endings. I liked the ending by the way, of the book, that is, and I feel like you probably knew I would, that’s why you gave it to me, because the writing was beautiful and the ending was happy or at least not sad and you knew I liked happy endings and you knew how if I could I’d make everyone live their lives backwards so that endings were beginnings and so that everyone’s grandparents and their parents and their friends are all born into the world out of little pine boxes to tears of joy and grow younger and happier and healthier and there’d be no disease, only cures, and no death, only a last hello, which would really be the first hello, because, you know, things would be backwards. There’d especially be no car accidents, only cars driving away from each other, big sheets of aluminum unfolding like backwards origami, like uncrumpling paper, airbags being sucked in, glass flying up from the ground into a mosaic and then fusing together again. But that’s not in the book, I know, and I really came here to talk about the book, because I never got a chance to talk about it with you, and I feel terrible about that, because you gave it to me and you obviously wanted me to read it and talk about it with you and I was stupid and dropped it, and then I thought I’d have all the time in the world to read it, all the time in my life, in your life, in our lives, to read it, to digest it, I thought I’d have time to put it aside and put it off and do other things and not read the book, but I was wrong and I’m sorry. I’ve read the book now, I know I’ve said that, but I want to say it again, I’ve read the book now, and it was really good, really good, and I wish, well I wish a lot of things, but one of the things I wish for the most is that I had read the book in time to talk to you about it, because you wanted me to, I know you did, you gave me the book, and I didn’t read it, I dropped it. I really liked the ending, by the way, did I say that? I really liked the ending, finally, like you knew I would, and now, more than anything, I just want you to say you liked the ending too, I want you to hear me say that I read that book you gave me, I want you to be happy, to smile, to share that book with me, to share something with me again, one more time, and I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry but I finally read that book you gave me.