Judy, or Just a Block with a Name

They tell me the cemetery is up the hill. I drive the car I borrowed from a friend up there and leave it at the parking lot. I take out the piece of paper another friend had scribbled directions to the grave on. I get lost a couple of times, but finally find it. Judy Yeats, 1979-1999. The tombstone is dark. Just a block with the name, nothing fancy. I think it suits her. Someone has left flowers. Looks like it might have been yesterday.

The cemetery is empty. Itís early in the morning. I sit down in front of the tombstone. I donít feel sad. Iíve never felt sad in cemeteries. Iíve never felt sad during funerals either, and not even when hearing that someone had died. I find it hard to explain why that is. When I hear that someone has died, I usually have too hard a time to comprehend what this means to feel sad. Funerals are mostly bizarre and somewhat awkward social events to me, and I get too distracted to feel sad. And cemeteries feel in general too peaceful for me to feel sad. And in the end, death is just death. And sadness has nothing to do with it.

Whatís sad, is life. No, I have to correct that. Or at least explain it better: Itís not life that is sad per se. But itís life where sadness can be felt, and so itís life that can be sad. In death, you feel nothing. You are dead. And the only link between death and sadness is the sadness of the living because they miss the dead. And why donít I miss the dead? I donít know. I just donít.

And if you asked me what I felt sitting down in front of that tombstone on that chilly morning up on that hill, Iíd have to say hardly anything. Calm maybe. But, thatís no surprise. Iíve already said it: I find cemeteries peaceful. And I guess thatís why I wanted to come. For some peace. To think. About her, I guess. At least also. 1979-1999. Thatís young.

I hadnít even spent much time with Judy. Just about two weeks. And we never even had sex. I mean, not really. I mean, we never fucked. Somehow, it hadnít been about that. We just hang out. And we definitely werenít supposed to fall in love, and even more definitely didnít intend to. In any case, falling in love didnít seem part of our time together, and we never even remotely talked about it. After all, it was clear that we would only have these two weeks since I was leaving the country and had no idea when Iíd be back, and Judyís plans were all over the place, and, well, that was it.

And then I left, and I knew I had fallen in love, but I wouldnít admit it, since it wasnít part of the plan, and I wrote to Judy, and the letters were nice, but they didnít speak of love, because I would have felt silly speaking of love. And her letters were nice, but they didnít speak of love either, because she would have probably felt silly speaking of love too.

And then Judy got sick, and I didnít know exactly what it was, but she was in hospital, and I thought it might have had something to do with the drugs, but apparently it didnít, or only indirectly, and then she was dead.

Rob, a common friend sent me the message. And a few days later he sent me another one saying that he had talked to Judyís closest friends and that they had said that all she had talked about the last couple of weeks was me, and how much she missed me, and they didnít understand why we hadnít been together Ďcause we must have loved each other so much, unless I hadnít loved her, which they didnít know.

I never replied to that message. What should I have written?

All this had been five months ago. Now I was back in the country earlier than expected. Even though it seemed completely pointless, visiting Judyís grave was one of the reasons that had made me come back this early.

I arrived in Portland, and then drove down to her hometown in my friendís car. I had never been there before. We had spent all our time together in and around the city. And now Iím sitting here in front of her grave feeling nothing.

ďAre you Daniel?Ē

I turn around. An attractive woman, Iíd say in her forties, dressed all in black, is standing behind me. Not sure if Iíve done anything wrong, I get up, brush the grass off my pants, and cautiously say ďyesĒ.

ďHi,Ē the woman says and stretches out her hand. ďIím Karen. Judyís mother.Ē I shake the hand that grasps mine firmly and nod. I donít know what to say. The woman, Karen, looks at me kindly. I canít look her in the eyes, and play with my hair instead. I donít feel so good.

ďItís nice to meet you,Ē she says. Even her voice is kind. It doesnít make me feel better. I choke. She gives me a hug. I cry silently on her shoulder. She finally lets go and asks me if I want to go for coffee. I nod, wiping tears from my eyes.

I put the candy I brought on Judyís grave. Her mom smiles. I can see tears in her eyes too.

(2002)