I walked up the isle until I could just see the the rim of his glasses and the bridge of his nose from the side of the casket. No, I can't cry here, not yet. Chris needs me to be strong for her and Travis does too. I forced my feet to keep moving until my clothes were touching the smooth, polished surface of his casket and I immediately knew everything was wrong. His glasses were too clean, his hair was laying too tame, his chin was mashed down against his chest, making him look very uncomfortable. And when I reached my hands out to touch his hands, he was too cold. None of this could be real. I haven't slept hardly in over a week, maybe Sleep has finally claimed me and this is just the strange, horrible nightmare that came with it. But I looked around at everyone shedding tears with their eyes staring toward the ground or to the sky as if waiting for some meaningful answer to all this insanity.
I looked back down at the closed eyes of my childhood friend. My first borther-like figure growing up. We were going to get our ears pierced together. We were going to travel to see all our favorite bands. But over the years, school and jobs interferred and we grew apart as most friends do. When I heard he was still living in the area, I saw my chance at getting my brother back. Then came the call...
Here lies Shane Thomas Taylor...I found those words swimming through my head as if it would make me believe it faster. But this quietly sleeping kid couldn't be him. Suddenly I heard "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd playing over the speakers very softly and I looked up to see Shane's smiling face on the overhead screen, proudly sporting his black sock-cap and his 2 8-gauge earrings in his left ear. I became concious of his mother sobbing behind me asking the infamous question to no one in particular. I reached up to my own ear and pulled loose the third gauge ring on my right ear and placed it between Shane's fingers and whispered in his ear,"I'll miss you, Bro" and kissed his cold forehead. All at once, the missing earring became the point where I realized the missing piece of my heart as I felt the rest of it slowly crumbling away. Here lies Shane Thomas Taylor...the dopey kid that I would hunt Easter eggs with, the one with the bowl cut as a kid that never laid flat, the cry-baby that nearly had a breakdown when he was forced to cut his long hair, the one who would sit with me and listen to our brothers' new album of A Perfect Circle, the kid who was never depressed and always found the good in people, my brother...and he's gone.
I was afraid to leave him suddenly. As if staying or leaving could somehow will the life back into him. I would take two steps toward the door, but then three steps back to the casket. Chris asked, "What are we waiting for?" and without stopping myself, I whispered weakly, "For him to get up." I stood there feeling as if I were falling through the ground but standing very still and not breathing, with 5 earrings instead of 6, an incomplete heart, and wondering if Shane could see me screaming and sobbing on the inside while everyone saw the empty expression on the outside. I reached my hand out to the doorknob and felt the biting winter wind sweep through me at once as Shane's mother called out to me, "Oh honey, I almost forgot. Happy Birthday, Mariah."
I'm just the other "lost soul swimming in a fish bowl" while Shane's already found the ocean.