Death haunts the air we breathe, the life we lead and the things we see. Marina died on a Tuesday in January. It was as simple as that, it is amazing that one-day someone can be there and the next-poof- they are gone from this earth, swallowed up and never to return. This blip on the earth’s catastrophic event scale occurred on a chilly day with snow falling by the pound. I regretted that day that was rejoiced by children statewide. I had just lost my best friend, my number one fan and most importantly my savior. What had I done to deserve such a travesty? I know or maybe then again, I don’t.
Mari’s funeral service was a few days after her untimely death; however, I question whether it could really by classified as a funeral or not. Yes, there was a picture of the juvenile on the alter, about a hundred extravagant bouquets of flowers, and people mourning all about the church. There was a bunch of people piled into a church singing along with the damned versus and listening to the priest, or so were their bodies. No one who attended was actually there in spirit and the few who were actually there simply were inconsolable. I was gone, mentally that is. All I saw was the fuzzy images of black and the other dark color spectrum and the color of paling skin. I went on like this until my eye caught the large brown rectangle placed in the center of the isle, I knew what it was and who was in it but I choose to ignore my ever apparent desire to open it up and crawl in with the scared remains of my friend. My other senses responded the same way, I heard nothing but the humming and occasional clicking sound of the fan above my head, I couldn’t bear to hear, because that would mean that I needed to feel something. I can’t feel not here, not now.
Apart from the act of dying itself, cremation may be the most particular process that the human body participates in. The skin is wrapped in a plastic substance so the body can cook a little before it burns into the ashes that are desired. And when all is said and done there is a bag of ashes and a pile of bones. Bones, a substance that doesn’t burn, are taken and ground into a powder, much like the pills you used to take when you were a child. Then the mortician takes the two bags of ashes and mixes them, like shake and bake chicken. In that bag is the entirety of a person; a whole being comes down to a pile of ashes placed into a plastic baggie, like dog shit.
I followed the orange flagged cars. What a sight, there must have been fifty or more of us in a line barely going ten miles an hour all trying not to crash our cars as the hot, stinging tears rolled down our faces. I sat next to a cousin or some relative of Mari’s; everyone’s eyes were full of tears and sorrow, except me. I am somehow is maintaining composition, mostly in part that I didn’t believe it to be true. This is not real, it can’t be. I need to wake up from this nightmare that has now become my reality.
Somehow, in a way that I probably will never remember, I exited the hearse line and ended up in a little cove of the cemetery that had a weeping willow tree. How appropriate I thought, a weeping willow for all the weepers. And a resting place beneath the trees, a perfect location for Mari to drink her ever so loved tea and read fluff filled love stories that she desired to become her reality.
I stand apparent, as straight as a soldier, behind her inconsolable mother and father. As the priest continues speaking in proverbial English, but he might as well be speaking in tongues. Then Mari’s father lifted the top off of the urn and picked up something comparable to an ice-cream scoop. Next thing I know there was Mari, fluttering through the air with the grace of butterfly. Each family member took a scoop of Mari and laid her down in her eternal resting place.
My turn. I came face to face with a pile of black dust. In the end it really does come down to ashes, dust. Mari, at least what used to be, was powdered and most of all dead. And then the emotions came at me like a freight train. Anger hit first and I threw the ashes onto the ground with fury pumping through my veins. I politely walked to the back of the pack then bolted to the nearest tree; coincidentally it was another willow tree, fuck.
I broke down and left the confinement of my body. The tears came in waterfalls and burned the entire way down my cheeks. Only in-between gasps of air was I allowed to think and all I could think was that she was gone. My confidante, my friend, my “sister from another mister” was gone. For a brief moment I re-entered humanity and I looked back at that spot. Now all I saw was a dead willow tree and a black snow capped hill. The world had lost its shine.
I reentered earth’s atmosphere a few days later. Most of those days involved fear, loathing, and tissues. I had cried and cried until I could cry no more. I drained myself of all bodily fluids. All I wanted to do was talk to Mari about this, but if there was a Mari, there would be nothing to talk about. My life has quickly become a catch-22. What I needed to deal with this was the Mari method. Marina ran, a lot, she said that it helped her clear her mind and relive her stress. Detachment by exercise she called it, I thought that it was just pushing your problems down further and further until one day you exploded. I needed something to believe in though, so I tried it. I took advice from the girl even when she was no longer on this earth; I hopelessly needed her.
The irony of the situation is that even when she is dead, she is always right. I had my solution: I needed closure in the form of going to her apartment and saying my final goodbye. Then I will be done with this emotional fiasco, for good.
In the early hours of the morning I called Mari’s mother in search of a key to reenter memory lane. I had my key and directions, but there was one dilemma, transportation to my destination. Mari lived in Boston, on the other end of the east coast, fucking fantastic. Her parents were going there next weekend and I was third wheeling it there.
This weekend is going to be a continually horrible series of minutes, hours and days. Not only would there be a awkward 10 hour long drive with the parents of my dead best friend but I got to spend the entire weekend with them sorting through everything. I would be in charge of throwing out parts of my best friend, great. There would soon be a Marina shaped hole in the universe.
The car ride was composed of a significant amount of silence and music to drown out the silence. It didn’t work; the tension in the car could have been cut with a spoon. There was some small talk about the weather and my work life, but that’s where it ended.
The car ride, which was only a ten-hour drive to her apartment, felt as if I was glued to that beige leather seat for several days. We neared the city and I fell asleep from the sheer mental and physical exhaustion of the preceding days. I woke up to it, the large brownstone on Boylston that housed my dear friend Mari.
As I walked up the stairs to her apartment I became overwhelmed by the anxiety that was now flowing freely in my veins. I opened the door to B2 and I was overcome with the rush of nostalgia. What had happened in that gloomy apartment, the holidays spent there, the laughs, the movie nights, and the hours of sobering up after a party. At least my memories can never be taken away from me.
The three of us sat down at her kitchen island to process all that our senses were facing. I was sitting in my dead best friends apartment with her crying parents, what am I doing? Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Marina’s mother reach into the pocket of her black bubble coat. In the palm of her hand, Mari’s mother held a little black box. She placed it onto the counter and pushed it toward me, and subsequently took a moment to collect herself before speaking to me.
“Open it,” she plainly stated.
I picked up the velvet box and removed the top to reveal a little platinum M strung onto the string of a rope necklace. A beautiful, yet tear jerking reminder of Mari. Unable to form words, I sat there just staring at the necklace.
“Do you know what it is?” she questioned me.
“No,” I answered her rapidly.
“Well, it is a miniature urn,” she paused before continuing trying to hold back the tears that she eventually knew would be running down her face, “It holds a little bit of Marina’s ashes. We both have them and I figured that you would want some of them seeing as you were practically her sister and our other daughter.”
I was in awe that they would even consider me in such a family oriented situation, but touched that they thought of me as their second daughter. I replied with a simple, “Thank you, for everything,” that stood for so much more than just the necklace. I was thankful for everything that they did for me. I removed it from the box in which it was housed and put it on. It lay just above my heart, a good place for her to stay.
My eyes wandered around the different colors and rooms of the apartment when Mari’s bedroom caught my eye. I jumped out of my chair and practically leaped into the room.
It would give her parents and me the alone time that we so desired.
I walked into the room and was overwhelmed by the scent of Mari, a mix of Coco Mademoiselle, vanilla body scrub, and her natural scent. Her decorating skills were superb, the way she was able to put together a collection of mismatched shit and make it into a beautiful work of art was simply ineffable. I simply stood in the entrance in awe of the beauty of the décor combined with the sun simply hitting the Charles River at a perfect angle. The view was simply poetic. I stalked across the room and planted myself in her favorite tweed, yellow chair. I wondered how many times she had sat in this very spot curled up with a cup of tea and a good book, just experiencing life to its fullest.
I stood up from my spot and walked over to her floor to ceiling bookshelves that straddled her window. I picked up her leather bound assorted works of Edgar Allen Poe and headed back over to that boisterous chair. I brushed the dust from the front and opened it up and proceeded to smell the pages, which smelled of dust and history, and stroke the hand cut pages with the tips of my fingers before actually reading. Mari had taught me that by using all of our senses we are able to experience the book more fully and really understand the beauty of literature. After reading a couple of short poems I turned to the short story that Mari and I both loved, The Raven. As I opened to page 274, a list fell out. I stared at it puzzled and then it hit me: it was Mari’s bucket list.
INSERT LIST HERE
I stared at that extended list of death wishes knowing that she would never get to complete the unmarked ones. I noticed her final addition to the list, die, and I crossed it out with the swift swipe of a nearby pen; at least she was able to cross off one more on her list. Hearing the sound of broken sobs quickly approaching, I stuffed the handwritten note into my pocket and stood up.
“Shall we begin in here?” I questioned her parents, who were obviously crying by their red and puffy eyes, “It’s going to take the longest because it has the most in it.”
“Okay,” Mari’s mother replied attempting to fight back the tears that were rapidly welling in her blue eyes.
And so began my weekend from hell. By the end of those two days, there was an accumulation of twenty-five years of life stuffed into twenty boxes. Twelve of them to return with her parents, one for me and the remaining were headed for the dumpster outside of her apartment building. Despite the pouring of hot tears down my face, I will never regret those forty-eight hours in her apartment; I got to remember Mari, if only for a few hours.
After a sufficiently awkward car ride home, I went to my bathroom to take a scalding shower. I hoped that I could burn the feeling of death and depression out of me; however, not even hot water can remove twenty-five years of friendship.
My escape from reality to the shower was completely useless and I reentered earth’s atmosphere at about 1000 miles per hour and hit my bed with a thud. Sleep could solve anything. Couldn’t it?
I woke up confused as to my location and whether it was night or day. I peered at my clock, which portrayed a neon flashing 9:45 A.M. I had survived the night, 1 for Ellie, and 0 for life. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that handwritten note and I picked it up. I touched my necklace as I read that note on repeat, attempting to figure out why I found it or why it was located where it was.
I wonder if Mari is up there in the sky somewhere thinking “Shit I never got to accomplish all of my goals both big and small”. Then the idea struck me. I did have her ashes, still very much a part of her, and I had her bucket list. Maybe I could finish the list for her, with her. Maybe that’s the reason I found the list, so I could finish this and be finished of her. It’s possible that this list is a part of my letting Mari go, something that I am nowhere capable of doing anytime soon. Maybe I am certifiably insane, or maybe I’m the next Einstein but all I know is that I am going to do this for Mari. She deserves it more than anything.