I haven’t known how to touch her since they found her mother’s suicide note. It’s the day of our two-month anniversary and we are celebrating with a funeral, not even holding hands.
Convention dictated that I wear a suit, of course, but mine is a size too large and clearly last-minute. The air hangs heavy all around me, entering through my mouth and weighing me down from the inside. I dig my jagged fingernails into my left palm, leaving small half-moon indentations behind. My lungs are twin anchors; my chest is a whirlpool.
It’s her brother’s suit, dammit. I don’t wear suits.
A worn-out rabbi is delivering the eulogy. Until today, I didn’t even know Lila was Jewish.
“I’m non-practicing,” she amended this morning, tightening my necktie like a noose. “Mom was really into all that stuff, though. Dad thought it’d be fitting.”
There aren’t any nails in the casket. I can feel her father and brother eyeing me in shifts. Brother. Dad. Brother. Dad. I fix my eyes intently on the northernmost point of the coffin, where I imagine a face would be if it were open, and try to remember names. Brother. Dad. I hadn’t met them before today. Then again, there were a lot of things I hadn’t done before today.
The casket moves and I flinch inappropriately. It’s just being lowered into the ground.
As if on cue, everyone around me begins to murmur in what I’m assuming is Hebrew. Lila touches my hand, briefly, but before I can react to our first physical contact in twenty-four hours, I realize that she is simply flipping my program to the reverse side.
I bring the flimsy off-white pamphlet closer to my face, squinting. Mourner’s Kaddish. I get the feeling that I am expected to read this aloud, but I don’t know the first thing about Hebrew pronunciation and it is written in goddamn Hebrew. I took Spanish in college, but Lila wouldn’t know that. There are a lot of things Lila wouldn’t know. There are a lot of things that I didn’t know, either. We’ve been dating for two months. I didn’t know that her mother was going to fling herself off the roof of the third-tallest building in the city just days before our two-month anniversary.
The sleeves of my borrowed suit are too long and my palms are sweating. I didn’t know that I would be here today.
I’m not a funeral date, goddammit. I’m a date for weddings. I’m just too sober otherwise.
The hum of the prayer begins to fade. Lila leaves my side and I watch her approach the grave, guiltily following the contours of her body as her fitted black dress shifts with each movement. She kneels, grasps a handful of dirt, looks at no one.
I haven’t seen her cry yet. I don’t think I will.
Lila lets the earth sift through her fingers, hitting the thing that encases her mother with a dull thud. At the same time, an unexpected breath of wind pulls the Kaddish from my hand. She turns as the breeze pulls it towards her, startled, her eyes meeting mine through the small crowd of soundless mourners.
I think she realizes then that we aren’t going to make it. That the murmured Hebrew prayers will echo through her head the next time we make love. Weeks later, after I am gone, she will note the similarity between her mother’s handwriting and my own: the missing punctuation, the cross of each T, the curve of the final Y in I’m sorry.
Abigail Marshall is a writer and grammar activist based out of Texas. Her work has previously appeared in PressBoardPress and Short Fiction Break. She blogs at abigailwashere.com, tweets from @thefirstabigail, and never leaves a bookstore empty-handed.