Even when I was little I was fascinated by graveyards. Not the new ones, mind you, with their tinkling wind chimes and fake flowers scattered over the grounds like Mardi Gras confetti. I loved the ancients that were old and crumbling with slats of rock teepee-ed over the mounds to keep robbers and coyotes from digging up the remains. I loved the stones that jutted from the earth like rows of loose teeth and -- after peeling away the moss creeping over them -- finding names and dates recording a story that no one was left to tell.
Graveyards these days are different. I should know since I go to one at least twice a week. (I’m not morbid. It’s the only place that has a good walking path within walking distance of our apartment.) Some time in the '50s they began gluing cameoed photos of the deceased onto the granite. It’s disconcerting, to say the least. As you traipse along the path, pictures of young men smiling from beneath rakishly tilted military caps stare out at you; along with Glamour Shots portraits of women with shellacked hair, sultry lips, and royal-blue feathered boas; along with young girls with gap-toothed grins and curling pigtails; along with couples bedecked in their wedding finery -- all Chantilly lace and pressed suits -- who passed away 52 years after marriage. Disconcerting or not, every day I return from the graveyard the lens through which I view my life is refocused.
You see, I’m in the midst of editing my novel, and although I truly love to write -- even if I knew I never had a chance of publication I would still -- I find myself constantly checking my heart's motivations. I want to be sure I simply remain a vessel the writing pours out of rather than a jackhammer penetrating an artesian well. I want to be sure I am not networking a name for myself but am simply trying to recount a story that needs to be told. I want to be sure I remember that, in the end, all my temporal drive will amount to is another August 15, 1986 -- ? etched into a stone. And that perhaps some girl with life seeping from her fingertips will pause before my grave. And perhaps, if her walk allows enough time, she will peel back the moss covering it. And perhaps she will then stare at the vapor of my existence while pondering the story of my life that no one's left to tell.