Last winter, I moved into a house across the street from a cemetery. Not sort-of across the street, as in, down the road and across the street, but immediately across the street. If-I-press-the-gas-too-hard-when-backing-out-of-the-driveway,-I’ll-end-up-desecrating-someone’s-grave across the street.
As someone who likes to avoid all things death, yet who simultaneously spends an inordinate amount of time thinking and worrying about it, living here made me a little nervous at first, but after walking through a few times and getting to know the names of my neighbors–conveniently etched in big block letters–the creepiness faded.
What took its place was my appreciation for the hilly walking path winding through plots that go back as far as the late sixteen hundreds, and my fascination with a group of five or six young men in baggy clothes and baseball caps who would gather about once a month around one of the graves closest to my house.
They’d stand over the spot for hours, some on one side and some on the other, their voices carrying across the flat patch of grown-in grass between them, and through the open windows of my porch and into my living room through the open door. They looked like punks, but to someone in her mid-thirties, anyone who dresses like someone under twenty pretty much looks like a punk.
But they never caused trouble. It was just a bunch of guys hanging out with a dead friend, having the kind of conversation I imagine takes place between the 20-somethings who gather in parking lots and stand around their parked cars.
For the first few months, the visits were pretty regular, but I noticed recently that I haven’t seen anyone stop by in a while. (They would usually come late afternoons or early evenings, and I could always hear them from inside the house. I would hear them before I saw them, in fact. Yes, I live that close to the cemetery.) For months, no one visited the grave. I figured I must have moved in pretty shortly after the time of his death, because people tend to stop visiting after a while. You know. Life goes on.
The morning after their first visit, I cut through the tree-hedges to find out when he died, how old he was, but there are three or four headstones pretty close together, and his friends hadn’t left anything behind that would tell me who they’d come to see. Any time they came, no one brought anything, no one left anything behind. But any time I walked through on a short-cut to the store or on an after-dinner ate-way-too-much-pasta walk, I’d still try to guess who it was with such devoted friends.
I hope to find out soon. When I came home from work today, eight cars were parked on the cemetery path closest to his plot, and at least forty people – all of them in their early to mid-twenties – were loosely gathered in the general vicinity of his grave, and bass-heavy music streamed from one of the cars. There are more cars now – sixteen, at least. So many they spilled onto the street in front of my house. I think it must be his birthday. The music is still playing, and somebody brought balloons. They’ve already blown away once – here in New England we’re catching the edges of a hurricane – but one of his friends chased them down and brought them back. I hope they’re still there in the morning.
UPDATE: 7pm – It is his birthday. They just sang to him.