Sunday, October 09, 2005

EXEMPLUM SALUIS PUBLICAE CIVIS POSUERE

There were three of us waiting at the bus stop this morning. Today was one of the first bona-fide cold days of the year, so we all had on our identical black pea coats, the sleeves of which were too short for all of us by now. Someone made a somber remark about how we all matched—her words kind of stumbled out because her lips were cold. At that point, I realized that we all three were wearing Duotex cable-knit knee socks—a particularly inappropriate choice on a day like today.

We had all gone to high school with Candice Duotex, youngest daughter of Clyde Martex, the largest stocking and textile tycoon the world had ever seen. Even in high school you could tell Candice was troubled. She had eating problems from the get go and would always change in the corner of the locker room during gym, hoping nobody would see the gaping, bruisy shadows underneath her ribs. We all saw it, but truthfully it really wasn’t any of our business. Candice was our friend and she could do what she liked, so we all hung around and we all wore the knee socks her father so famously manufactured.

They were the same knee socks we were wearing today. They were the same knee socks Candice had used to hang herself. Her weight had hit an all time low—the coroner leaked it to the Gazette, saying her lifeless body—stringy hair and all—weighed only 85 pounds, so the durable duo-knit on those knee socks had no trouble holding tight while she wrapped the toe end around her neck and the angle end around a sturdy light fixture, then dangled until it was all done. They found her—the stockings stretched but still very much intact—a note that mournfully read: “the Canadian Hemlock can live to be over 600 years old” pinned to the end of her right sleeve.

This morning, the morning of Candice's funeral, we all three were wearing those socks—mine were prairie heather, Susan's were wheat colored, and Janice's had an ever so faint argyle pattern. Although I noticed it, I didn't say a thing and instead just felt a guilty sensation, a hyper-awareness of the elastic band holding the socks firmly to my upper calves.

It had been raining and little yellow leaves freshly shaken from the trees clung to our black shoes. It was too early to be awake, but we had to catch the first bus we could, because Candice's burial was to take place at the family plot at the country church far outside of town. When we used to take bike rides out along that road, she always—almost without fail—mentioned how creepy that church made her feel, being in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of stubbly Quaker tombstones popping out of the lumpy ground.

The street was always quiet on Sunday mornings. While we were waiting, we heard the clink of metal as the boy who Susan was sleeping with unchained his bicycle from the lamppost and rode away, but nobody looked to see him go. When the bus came, we were the only ones on it. The driver asked if we were going to the Duotex girl's funeral. We answered yes and he said it was a shame, though he neglected to specify what he meant.

The church was full of scary looking wealthy women and endless echoes of sad, choked coughs that sounded on the verge of vomiting. The veins across the priest’s nose and face spread like the fractal posters we had in math class all those years before. A very small, dark wood casket that allegedly contained Candice Duotex’s remains was at the head of the center aisle and Clyde Duotex delivered the eulogy leaning on it while swirling a glass of whiskey in his hand. Though he began by praising Candice in very vague terms, his speech quickly segued into a pitch for Duotex cable knit knee socks that were so strong and so durable that hell—they’d held up his own daughter long enough for her to asphyxiate.

Everyone waited for him to chuckle tragically and then realize what he'd just said, but instead he just stood there, almost as though the coffin were about to spring open revealing hundreds of pairs of stockings ready for him to sell for all of us. He didn’t realize what he'd just said. The coffin lid stayed shut. After a moment, Clyde Duotex finished his drink and took a seat. People mumbled and sniffled but little could be done.

The pallbearers were Candice's attractive cousins who all went to Elmhurst and who would drive over each spring to escort us to the prom. I noticed that at least two of them did in fact seem to be wearing exactly what they had worn to the prom one year—a trifle distasteful considering that a large amount of cake had been spilled on one of the pairs of tuxedo pants and besides, the family owned the textile mill—they had no shortage of those sorts of things.

Even though it really wasn't that cold, I wondered how they had churned up the earth for Candice's grave so quickly. Janice stubbed her toe on a mostly-concealed Quaker tombstone and yelled “damn!” but by that point, anything would have been okay. Usually they wait to cover up the casket with dirt until the crowd disperses, but nobody was interested in waiting around this morning, so the single roses were tossed in, the folded notes filled with last goodbyes fluttered down, and then came the scrape of the shovels. The same sound you hear when they’re fixing the sewer line.

1 comment:

Katiett said...

"Nice Blog!!!"? NICE BLOG!!!"?

This is not what you say in response to a completely lovely suicide story.