I know what you're thinking- some sicko, right? Who the hell would want to sneak into a funeral? Must be crazy, call the cops, and the like. But here's the thing: funerals are self-contained explosions. It's often smaller, quieter than you think such a destructive thing would be- but no one gets out alive.
One of the side effects of such a setting in that no one is really paying any attention to who is there, especially not the family of the deceased. You get in the line, shake the hand and say a few sympathetic words and you're off. The nose blowers don't even look you in the face, the awkward youth never ask any questions and the blank-faced shock victims give robotic responses. No one remembers you, no one registers the intruder.
As for me and why I'm here- well... let's just say I got my reasons. If you believe in such things, it's not up to you to decide whether they're good or bad- someone else is in charge of passing judgement. Perhaps the reason it's never bothered me too much is because I don't believe in such things. I've never seen any reason to, and nothing's ever come out of the woodwork to convince me otherwise. So I come- viewing after viewing, suit after suit- and I sit. And I watch.
It's not exactly entertainment. I could be binge-watching Netflix like everyone else if I wanted that. This is better. It's an experience. The gauntlet of human emotions out on display with no commercials, no censors, no screen. The faces are only part of the play.
There's the tissue-talker muttering 'thanks you's and agreements to offered compliments through a wadded up paper. Small, hunched and held up by tall, awkward boys on both sides. They stand like pillars, doing their damndest not to move as the plump, round yet desperately fragile woman between them snivels and snorts at all the greeters. She smells like grapefruit as I pass and I can't help but think of the nursing home they stuck my uncle in before he went.
There's the statue standing there like a sentry at the end of the line. His hands clasped to each other so tightly his knuckles are white, his arms pressed so firmly in front of him he looks as if he might tip over if you knocked into him. And his gaze is locked straight ahead like he's trying to stare through the wall. It all gives the illusion of immobility and permanence. Like he's part of the scenery- cold, hard and inanimate. That is, until someone proffers a hand. Then he springs into action like a jack-in-the-box: grasping and shaking and smiling with a great act of real emotion. But you follow long enough and see the same dead expression wash over as soon as the person passes. Action, reaction. Like a reflex. No thought, just meaningless motion.
My favorite is always the drunk. There's always at least one, no matter what the crowd. There's a few different flavors of them, of course. But they always monopolize the action. The infamous loud, belligerent tornado who lobs accusations like a fountain- hitting anything near without aim or purpose. Or the quiet hiccuper whose glossy eyes can never quite focus and who needs to be pushed upright every so often lest they splay themselves across a neighbor's lap. Or the sobber- the ones crying with such abandon that only alcohol could explain the ceaseless noise. They're louder and scarier than the regular sobbers. And redder.
I don't know why they're my favorite, exactly. Maybe it's the way they demand everybody's attention while everyone around them pretends not to notice. Or maybe it's the way they put it all out there. While the mourners are acting and strutting around like show dogs before a panel of judges they spit and growl and bark with no regard for the audience. It seems more genuine somehow, more authentic. In a conference of actors they're the only real participants.
You can think whatever you want of me for liking it so much. You can judge and scorn and chastise in your own indignant fashion. Won't bother me. Because while you're doing all that I'll be watching you, forming my own judgements, my own labels, my own studious observations of character. It's all part of the experience.
And why not enjoy the experience? The one in the casket can't. So you might as well revel for them.