Most of the faces are strangers’ faces, but many of them are those he remembers being worn by much younger people, before they got old. Most of the faces seem shocked, looking into the eyes of others, searching for the right thing to say, the best memory to savor, the sweetest shared recollection.
No one knows what to think. Everyone tries hard not to think about where they are, or why. Everyone tries hard to imagine better days ahead. Everyone looks forward to the end of suffering, hoping for the arrival of peace, for any small shard of bliss to descend upon them, lifting them out of their current unbearable misery. Sadly, even with endings so near at hand, there is no end to the present sadness in sight.
It seems like everyone is family; seems like even though so many of the faces are unfamiliar, none of them are alien. None of them fall outside the gathered circle; none remain beyond weeping and remembering; beyond the sharing of the common grief.
Most of them take turns, stepping up and taking their time to tell their own life stories later, after they’ve told and retold their stories of the times they’ve spent with each other; taking their time to tell their stories of how they came to be who and what they are. Everyone listens carefully, hoping to hear some small detail from someone else’s story that reminds them how they’re linked, hoping their shared connections will somehow lessen the loss.
But no matter how many stories are told, no matter how many links are discovered or rediscovered their loss and pain remain.