Ignacio, Iggy to his friends, watched through blurry tearful eyes as his late girlfriend’s pearly white casket was lowered into the ground. The slowness of the process was agonizing. Even more so with the sun shining off the chrome lining, blinding him for almost a minute. By the time the glare was extinguished, Fiona’s casket had sunk below the surface of the manicured lawn.
An enlarged photograph of Fiona smiling widely, her golden locks curling over her shoulders rested on a tri-stand next to her sobbing mother, Linda. Linda made as if to jump in the grave after her deceased daughter, but was unsuccessful after her husband wrestled her to the ground. They hit the new grass with a thump, leaving Linda red faced as she gasped for air.
Iggy hung back from the crowd of family and friends. The only feeling to match the endless torture of sorrow was the awkwardness of not having her to protect him from them. Throughout the church procession, palm bearing, and the priest’s last words only Fiona’s great-aunt had spared him so much as a courteous smile.
Fiona had lived with Iggy for almost three years and her idiot, prejudice family still wouldn’t give him the time of day on the day he said goodbye forever. In a sea of well-bread Aryan middle-classers, Iggy stuck out like a sore brown thumb. Looking around at all those bigots display their dramatic emotions to one another, judging who was the saddest, was disgusting. He was the one who had to watch the future Mrs. Ignacio Romero being buried under six feet of crushing earth.
A solo sob escaped his trembling lips as a hot stream of stinging tears ran down his already raw cheeks. Covering his face with his callused hands, the arms of his borrowed suit to raised, cutting into his armpits. Before anyone could notice, he whipped his cheeks for the thousandth time and pulled down his sleeves.
Linda was dusting the dirt and grass off of her skirt as people began to grab handfuls of dirt to throw into the grave. Iggy hesitated before walking closer and taking a chunk of dirt in his sweaty palm. Peering down, Iggy wondered if he was relieved the funeral was a closed casket or not. To see her one last time would be priceless…but she wouldn’t be the same.
The dirt broke into pieces as it struck the casket, scattering around the spot where her aqua blue eyes rested eternally on a soft pillow inches below. Iggy looked up at the cloudless bright sky. It gave him the tiniest smig of happiness. Fiona once joked about wanting to be buried on a beautiful warm sunny day.
“This isn’t real,” he whispered to himself.
After leaving behind his one true love beneath a mound of soil, Iggy followed Fiona’s family to a cozy hall to the left of the modest brick church were the funeral procession had been held. If any of them had listened to him they would have known she wasn’t religious. They had taken their sweet time with the arrangements as well. Linda wouldn’t tell him why, but the coroner took forever to release Fiona’s body. Maybe she did tell him. Iggy’s mind had become spotty over the last six months. “Mental Blocks” the doctors called it. Not quite dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s. Fiona had started leaving sticky notes on the fridge to remind him of things she told him or places he needed to be. Now there was no one to be his external memory.
The hall matched the church décor of dusty rotten wood, exposed brick and the smell of decay. Battling the aroma of death was the scent of microwave-warmed blueberry scones, buttery croissants, and sour champagne. Iggy sipped methodically at a glass of the bubbly as Fiona’s great-aunt sauntered his way. Her skin was strangely wrinkly and too tight at the same time. Her hairline receded when she smiled.
“Hello,” she greeted him with an outstretched claw covered in liver spots. Her accented voice must have been European, but Iggy couldn’t remember where exactly Fiona’s family was from. “I hear your Ignacio, Fiona’s good friend.”
“I’m Fiona’s boyfriend.” The only thing preventing his voice from cracking when he spoke Fiona’s name was his annoyance. “We’ve been together for four years. Lived together for almost three.”
“Okay, okay,” she patted his shoulder. “We’re all upset here. There’s no need to get touchy.”
“We’re all upset?” Iggy mocked. The glass in his hand began to shake. “You don’t even have a right to be upset! You clearly know nothing about her.”
The guest quieted, turning to see what the yelling was about. Great-aunt whatever-her-name-is clutched the collar of her pink lace top as she took a step back. Iggy looked around at all the surprised faces. Their stupid intrusive glares and their gaping mouths only angered him more. A hot flush rolled over his body. His attention shot back to the old bag.
“You probably haven’t seen her since she was a child, if you’ve ever met her at all. I–,” he jabbed a finger into his chest, “–did not leave her side for four years! And I sure as hell have never seen or heard of you. So don’t talk to me about ‘touchy’.”
He was breathing heavily, his chest expanding and deflating dramatically. Linda’s husband approached with his hands raised,
“Now calm down, son.” He stepped closer.
“I’m not your son!” Iggy threw his champagne glass against the brick wall where it shattered into sharp pieces at his feet. “I don’t know any of you! And none of you knew Fiona, so fuck you and your fake condolences. Ya bigot bastards.”
Without so much as a second glance, Iggy spit on the floor and stormed out of the hall.
People must have thought he was mental the way he stalked the streets, unsure of which direction to go, bursting into uncontrollable sobs at random. They just let him go. No one even tried to stop him from leaving the church grounds out of respect for Fiona. They didn’t care. None of it mattered. None of them know. Nobody knows. The emotional pain of losing the love of your life is nothing compared to the physical aches it causes. By the time he was done walking the streets his legs were so sore he was limping, his eyes were raw, and the only company to the cloudy abyss of his stomach was the acidy rumble of emptiness in all forms.
The warmth from the clear day had melted away into a lukewarm cobalt night. Iggy had begun dragging his feet to keep them moving. He headed toward his neighborhood pharmacy when at last he numbly decided to go home. Only a couple of teenagers playing dominoes stopped to take notice of his burdened body pulling itself through the sliding doors. Only sleepy employees occupied the store itself.
“Do you have a prescription, sir?” The curly haired pharmacist eyed him suspiciously from behind the counter. She strolled over with less enthusiasm then Iggy; if that were even possible.
Nodding, Iggy slowly fished around in his back pocket for his wallet. In the folds of the worn leather was a paper for a prescription he hadn’t yet filled. The pharmacist, whose name tag read ‘Sharon’, looked over the paper.
“You look like you need this,” she chuckled. Iggy starred at her blankly, not returning her humor. There was no humor left in the harsh world. Sharon’s smile faded, “It’s going to take about a half hour.”
“That’s fine. I’ll wait,” his voice coming out coarse from dehydration.
Iggy sat down in a hard plastic chair facing the counter. He stared hopelessly at the last button on his suit, waiting the half hour in unbearable silence. Sharon hailed him back to the desk with a wave of a white medical bag in his direction.
“You’re co-pay is twenty-five dollars.”
Iggy paid the amount, and with a sudden sense of urgency flew out of the store at hummingbird speed. As fast as his aching legs would take him, Iggy skyrocketed up to the one bedroom apartment on the sixth floor that he had shared with Fiona. Not a soul was in the dimly lit hallways to stop him and give condolences or piteous looks. With shaking hands he dropped his keys twice before unlocking, entering, then re-locking the door.
Pictures. Pictures on the walls, on the bookcases, on the TV, the nightstand, the fridge of Fiona smiling, laughing, pouting, sticking her tongue out. Iggy had blanketed the walls in Fiona wall paper without even noticing it. Before the acid in his stomach could burn up the wood floor, Iggy ran into the bathroom to spit the yellowish goop in the sink. After producing two spit-outs and about five minutes of dry heaving, he could finally lift up his face enough to see his reflection in the mirror.
“It’s not real,” said Iggy as a fresh batch of tears pooled up in the corners of his bloodshot eyes. ‘Dark Chocolate’ was the color she had given his eyes. She said they looked pretty next to his light brown skin. “It didn’t happen,” he continued out loud, “This isn’t real.”
A low, quiet click went off in his brain like a switch someone flicked to light the attic, making everything go numb. Iggy instinctively splashed a handful of water over his paling face, grabbed the glass on the sink that held their purple and green toothbrushes (which he then threw on the floor), then filled it with tap water. Taking the orange container out of the white bag, he swallowed every last one of the sleeping pills in the bottle. When the container was empty, Iggy was no longer able to grip it. It slipped out of his hand, landing on the floor with a thunk that sounded miles away.
Erecting himself unsteadily, Iggy peered at his swaying figure in the mirror. Using his hands to guide him to the bed, his nostrils filled with the scent of Fiona in the sheets and pillows. Cherry blossoms and warm sugar enveloped him with their familiarity as he closed his heavy eyelids. She was there. She was right there next to him. It wasn’t real.