The afternoon was bright. A wind blew through the low hanging willows, making its stringy branches sway like an aging dancer. The driveway leading to the main building looked like something out of a Thomas Harris novel, its gates foreboding and intricate. Every pixel of my peripheral view was final in its lines, hues and movement.
He died just a few days ago. I think. I can’t quite remember. There was nothing black enough, nothing nice enough in my musky drawers. I stared at the stack of clothes I never wore and lost myself in how old they were. I’d never be caught dead in this stuff at school. There were a pair of outdated slacks that fit awkwardly, ones I had to fold up at the edge so it would look less flared… I guess they could work. But what about a blouse? I didn’t own a black blouse. I rummaged through the second stack in the drawer and dug up an old Hurley tank that had the word HURLEY printed in bold white lettering across the chest. Then I shook out the wrinkles of a black button-up shirt I found in another stack in the same drawer. I could wear this over the Hurley tank, couldn’t I? It would look awful, but I could. For shoes, I laced up my triple-striped Adidas. But they were a faded navy blue with white stripes. How did I not have any suitable black clothing? He had just died. I needed something black. Why couldn’t this be like her funeral, where we got to wear white in honor of the dead? White, I had.
I remained uncomfortable for the entire service. I don’t remember seeing him in his casket. Maybe I saw his embalmed visage from a distance? I don’t remember.
I’ve had this bizarre notion of self preservation through the years. I feel the need to right the wrong of that day. Consistently and constantly. I feel the need to reassure myself that I could do it right. That if it ever happens again, I wouldn’t feel so inadequate and unprepared. That death wouldn’t outsmart me. I would know what follows, I would honor the dead dutifully and completely.
I would have something beautiful and black to wear for the next procession. Fifteen years later, my closet has only black items of clothing alongside minor neutral palettes. Colors and patterns leave a distaste in my mouth. I’ve been wearing black regularly for years. In the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Wherever I go, it’s on me like a second skin. I feel reassured in it. Like I’m prepared for the inevitable.