To the uninformed and uneducated it must have seemed a crazy place to while away the hours. It was our place, I would usually get there early and wait for him on one of the wrought iron benches that were placed all around, as if the dead could crawl out of their graves, pull up a pew and reminisce on times gone by. My friends said it was creepy, said you’d never catch them there after dark and wasn’t I afraid the bogeyman was going to get me?
But I wasn’t . He made me feel safe. Arms wrapped around me we would sit there for hours, reading to each other. I didn’t feel disrespectful to the dead. They had long departed from this earthly realm. I loved to watch the sunlight dapple through the trees throwing strange and eerie shadows on the ground.
I came here before him, but I never told him that. I wanted him to feel it was brand new. Our place.
We met at school of course, where else does someone our age meet? And I fell for him immediately, he took a little longer to catch up. We were desperate to have somewhere to be alone, not to kiss and make out, just to fill in all the gaps we didn’t know about each other. He told me about his after school job on Mondays and Wednesdays, how he hated it but couldn’t leave because it was his father’s firm and it was expected of him. I told him how my father just upped and left one day, no note , no nothing. We were better off without him. And then I cried.
On the days he wasn’t working we used to meet there after school for an hour. I told my mum I was going to a friends. I could tell she didn’t believe me but didn’t feel it was worth the fight between us to bring it up. He would lay there on the bench his head resting on my lap while I read to him. I started out with poetry but all the writers I liked were too somber for him. I suppose that should have been my first clue.
Some days we didn’t sit and read. We just walked hand in hand around the graveyard noticing all the names and calculating the years between the dates. The babies were the saddest, some as young as 6 months, buried between their parents. Evergreen Cemetary was pretty big and just a little way from my school.
We used to comment on the strange names on the graves particularly in the oldest part of the cemetery. Lots of Tortonis and Cabalettis. There was one grave I felt strangely drawn to. It was at the far end of the cemetary and looked forlorn and sorry for itself. It was unkempt and cobwebs and spiders were its only adornment other than a small headstone. Amanda Foster was its occupant and I used to wonder why such an English sounding name was found in a graveyard in Santa Cruz. According to her dates she had died at the age of 36.
I never saw anyone visit Amanda’s grave , apart from me, in all the time I went there. It didn’t appear she had been somebody’s wife or Mother and yet she was significant to someone because there was a tiny daisy embellished on her headstone. No words only a daisy. I liked to imagine she was the heroine of a tragic love affair. I was a teenager. Any love affair worth its salt had to be a tragic one.
The only clue to her lover was a bouquet of Lavender that were placed on her tomb. They had long lost their lustre and smell but still retained a trace of their deep purple hue.I pushed aside their cobwebbed buds gently in search of a clue to their giver but nothing. Any card or message had either rotted or never been there to begin with. yet someone had loved her. Someone had cared, It frustrated me not to know who.
This was about the time Jimmy stood me up. I waited for him at the usual time but he never showed. We had different classes so I practically never saw him at school. I waited for him all that week, still nothing. I was in pieces inside, torn between savouring the delicious tragedy of it all and heartbroken at the same time.
I decided I would go back one last time. If he wasn’t there this time I knew it was over. I got there the next Tuesday, as glammed up as it was possible to get in the girls toilets at school and waited. And waited. He wasn’t coming. Brushing the tears from my eyes I got up to leave and went to say goodbye to Amanda for the last time.
I was confused to see a fresh bouquet of lavender on her grave with my name on. I slid the envelope open with clumsy fingers. “Dear Carmen, I’m sorry. Jimmy x”. I tucked the card into my pocket, and crumbled one sprig of Lavender into the air. Leaving Amanda with the lion’s share of the token I exited the cemetary.