I’m on my third slow loop through a nearly-empty parking lot, passing by darkened stores as the last workers depart on a Sunday night. The land on which the mall sits was once part of the Everglades – I helped survey it as a summer job years ago. I’d wade into the forest with a machete and mark the trees developers would be saving – the slash pines were going, but the live oaks would stay to be stranded in asphalt.
Three days ago, Tristan, my cousin’s boyfriend, was waiting at a stop sign on his motorcycle when an inattentive driver plowed into him. If I delay my arrival any longer, I’d miss his viewing completely, so I finally drive across the street to the funeral home.
I walk into a large room that’s a swirl of awkwardness and dated fashion and make my way toward my cousin who is standing by the coffin at the front. Sira and I spent time together as kids but drifted apart by high school to the point that I’ve seen her maybe four times in the last three years.
She’s wearing a black dress and is facing away from me, looking down at Cinnamon, her kid, who is asleep in a stroller. I can make out the top of CINN in large green Gothic lettering across the top of her back.
She turns to me. “Hey, Robbie.” Her mascara is smudged.
I give her a hug. “Really sorry about Tristan.”
“He was trying. He really was. He was supposed to go full-time soon at Old Navy.”
I nod, which is about the only response I can make to a cousin whose crappy ride with her little doomed sidekick just got a lot crappier. “Hang in there, Sira.”
I kiss her on the cheek and walk to the coffin – which is closed – and lower myself to the red cushioned kneeler. Crossing myself, I silently say a Hail Mary.
After what seems an appropriate amount of time, I stand and walk toward the exit. My Aunt Joyce stands near it. She’s about fifty, blonde, twice-divorced and obviously surgically altered.
She makes a face. “Dealing drugs around a baby. Good riddance.”
Joyce scowls. “You believed that BS about an accident? He was actually shot in the face at his ‘real’ job. They still have the scene marked by Sears.”
It starts to blur after that. We talk a bit longer then, as soon as it’s possible, I mumble goodbye, and escape.
I start heading home but morbid curiosity pulls me to the scene, the police tape moving slightly in the humid near-stillness by one of the surviving live oaks. Rolling down the window, I peer at the ground for signs of violence but there is too little light to see anything.
Looking around, I find myself trying to remember what this place was like before all the development. It’s disturbing that somehow I can’t picture it anymore.
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