I didn't want to put in a lot of character description. I
thought it would detract. This is Ray and Ray and their families gathered
together . . .
“I’m tired,” he said.
I looked at him carefully. Yes, he was tired. The purple bags under his eyes and the fine lines around his mouth testified to that. His shoulders were tight and he was hunched over, staring at the ground. Every few seconds, he would take a deep, shuddering breath,
as though trying to empty his lungs of stale air. Or as though fighting off despair. His fair hair was frizzed out, creating a halo around his pale, drawn face. His eyes were red. Yes, he was tired, but it was so much more than that. He was exhausted. Nothing more could be asked of him. He had nothing left to give.
“I’m tired,” he said again, voice cracking. “Good God, I never knew I could be so tired. What is this, Ray?”
“It’s grief,” I said, looking beyond him to the wall lest his tenacious control slip.
“Is it?” he asked. He raised his head. “Why would I grieve?”
I shrugged. “Why would anyone grieve?”
He turned away from me and sank into the couch. He leaned back and closed his eyes. Goosebumps dotted his pink skin. “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear," he murmured.
I shrugged. “Sometimes it is. You have no reason to fear, though.”
He didn’t respond. I looked back through the den. People were still eating in the dining room, their conversations muted to an unintelligible static. Someone should be with them, supervising. They were quiet now, but there was wine in the cellar and sorrows to be drown. Arguments were inevitable. “He was a good man,” my mother had proclaimed earlier that day. Oh, that comment would not go unchallenged, but I would not set her straight. All the same, I knew I should leave him and make sure all the relatives held
together . . .
“Does it go away?”
“Grief. Does it ever leave?”
Ah. I sucked in air through my teeth and turned away from the funeral party. “No, it doesn’t.” He opened his eyes and looked at me, stunned. Shattered. “It doesn’t ever leave,” I repeated, “but it does change.”
“Change to what?” he asked.
“Anger, usually, then apathy. Then, if you take time away from yourself, a quiet joy that still aches, but accepts and empathizes.”
He closed his eyes and took deep breaths. “That’s hardly been the case with you.”
I said nothing.
He sighed. “I’m tired, Ray.”