Painting a rainbow on the wall with my Mother in our NY apartment. It’s the wall on the right when you walk in.
Going door to door trying to sell my old used toys and my Mother’s beat up purses. I was in nursery school…
Riding an elephant for the first time. At a gas station…
Shutting off the Christmas tree on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom just before Spectro Magic began…
Riding in a bus with a dead body in the back. In Florida. Without air conditioning…
It is this last one that I remembered tonight as I sat outside a funeral home watching the attendants pull the hearse into the garage. And, for just a moment, I had to recheck my mental files in order to recognize this memory as real. Because after all, who rides in a bus with a dead body in the back? In Florida. Without air conditioning?
Apparently me. And my fiancés family.
I was newly engaged to my now ex-husband when his father passed away from lung cancer. Though we had been dating for almost two years, I did not know his family very well. Though I don’t believe in funerals and do not like dead people, out of respect and obligation I knew that I had to attend the wake and funeral.
I was not looking forward to it.
I arrived at the funeral parlor (does anyone else think it’s weird that we call both the place we lay out the dead and the place we get our hair cut “parlors”?) alone and thankfully found our friends. Also thankfully they chose seats toward the back of the room-away from the casket, which was open. At the very moment the wake was about to start, I had a sudden and urgent need to use the bathroom.
Now, let me tell you, I’m not a fan of using the bathrooms in these places. Especially when no one else is in there. It’s creepy and weird and I always feel like I am not alone. And we all know that I am not. Who’s watching me? Are they going to play a trick on me? Steal the toilet paper? Flush a toilet or block the door?
No thank you. I’ll hold it.
And I did. I managed to (very uncomfortably) “hold it” until the end of the viewing hours when family and friends of Gerry were slowly meandering to the lobby and also, to the bathroom. Of course I jumped at the chance to relieve myself with company of this world. But what does this have to do with me, a bus and a dead guy? And no AC-in FL? It was in that bathroom I learned of our means of transportation to the burial site the next day. And I burst out laughing. Right there. In the stall. With company of this world.
Luckily the others shrugged it off as nerves and out we went. (No tricks or stolen toilet paper.)
The next morning we solemnly arrived at the funeral parlor and were greeted by a big silver and blue bus. But it wasn’t a regular bus-it looked more like a camper than a school bus and had rounded edges. Inside, the seats did not line up in rows facing front; instead there were benches along the sides with a whole lot of empty space (and nothing to hold onto) in the middle. There was a bathroom and behind that, a dead body.
I don’t think I need to tell you that I did not use that bathroom. Even though the ride to the military cemetery was over an hour and I had 2 cups of coffee prior to boarding the bus. (Just as I was about to give up on my “no bathroom & dead body combo” rule the door that held the casket in place slammed open. God was good to me that day. He didn’t let me enter the bathroom.)
About ten minutes into our trip the bus driver pulled over and told us to roll our windows down. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to Florida but this isn’t something you want to do. Especially when wearing nylons, a skirt and a suit jacket and especially when it’s a muggy, rainy day. But we did what we were told and hoped for the best. About 10 minutes later (and I suspect several sweat spots too) we realized that the once cold air conditioner was no longer working.
Future family members started stripping off layers of dress clothing. Jackets came off, shirts unbuttoned and ties lay on the floor. But I-I remained fully clothed. Not out of some weird principle or fashion sense, but because I had nothing on under my jacket. Except for a black lacy bra I was intending to use as a “cheer up and forget today” gift later on.
Not something you want to show your future in-laws, especially when 2 of them are sleazy men you’d already started to hate.
The only thing worse than the ride there was knowing that after standing in the rain for the funeral we would have to ride back. Tired, emotionally drained and wet. Without AC. In FL. With only a sexy bra underneath your clothing. The only plus was that the dead body would no longer be on board.
Clearly I survived the ordeal and went on to marry the man who made me ride in a bus with a dead guy. And I’m not saying this is what did us in but I’m a girl who likes her AC. Especially in FL. On a bus. With a dead body…