We used to hang out in the cemetery across the street from my high school, smoking cigarettes and sitting on the mossy tombstones of people we didn’t know. The ground was always damp and loose and grass grew sparse and ragged, giving the impression that a grave might be more easily exhumed. When the rain was heavy it would beat the soil down around the edges of the coffins, forming subtle mounds that from a distance took on the texture of a quilt.
Before and after class we’d form a pretty rowdy group. During class the company was quieter, more solemn, more breathing room for far-off conversations of what we thought we knew of life.
One day, it must have been in fall, I was walking through that cemetery, over a hash of limbs that fell during a stronger night of wind, freeing the smoke from my lips indifferently and stripping bits of soggy lichen from the trunks of trees I passed. A friend was there, but I don’t recall the words we spoke. It might be true we didn’t speak at all. But I remember feeling vaguely sad, like that was all there was, cigarettes and moss and bodies in the muddy ground.
The day we buried my sister I felt very much the same, small and lost and cool, planting something there that we knew would never grow.
Not long ago I spent the day wandering through a large cemetery. It was warm, sunny. But the moss still clung to trees as lush and dewy as it always had. It sleeved the higher branches of the thicker trees and draped like fleece from limbs in places where it couldn’t be disturbed. In the shade I sat and stripped the lichen like a had those years ago, struggling still to find coherence, thinking that the earth beneath me was infertile. I wonder how I’ve learned so little in all the years I’ve passed.