24 - A Brave Face

All you need to do is keep it together. You’ve done alright so far - greeting the mourners, accepting condolences, talking to the crematorium, negotiating with the caterers, deciding on the flowers and managing all the tasks that come with organising a funeral. You’ve spoken to the in-laws and told them thet you’re doing OK and as much as you appreciate their offers of help, you’d prefer to do things on your own for a while. They nod and that “whatever you want, dear”, but you can tell that they’re put out by it. That doesn’t really mean anything, though. All that matters is making it through the funeral. After the long hours of waiting, you thought it would never come. Then, as it approached, you thought it was too soon, but now you’re sitting on an uncomfortable wooden bench, wishing you’d worn thicker tights. Given that the whole building is based around an oven, you would have thought it would be warmer. Probably not what you’re supposed to be thinking about at your husband’s funeral, but anything that distracts you from the vicar’s banal eulogy. It’s peppered with inane trivialities (he was a man who loved sport and the records of Jonny Cash) and misses all the things that really defined him. It’s all so hypocritical, but you’re not supposed to to speak ill of the head, so you just keep your mouth shut. When it’s done you can find a quiet place to be by yourself and let it all out, but that will have to wait. At the moment all eyes are on you, because the number one attraction at this sideshow is Watch-The-Widow. Everyone wants to see you’re going to break down in the middle of the service and it’s up to you not to give them the satisfaction. You wish you had thought to get a veil. Too late to do anything about it now. For the moment, you just keep staring at your shoes.

You manage to keep it all together, up until the very last moment when the curtain close and your mind suddenly conjures up the image of Porky Piug saying “That’s all folks!”. A howl of laughter emerges from your throat and everyone turns and stares, but no-one hears it for what it really is. They expect a shriek of despair, so that’s how they choose to interpret your outburst. Of course they do. They don’t know about the cruelty and the torment. They don’t know about the broken ribs and the cigarette burns on your breasts. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to really understand the joy you feel at that man’s death, so you clamp your hand over your mouth and snuffle down your giggles, camouflaging them with fake anguish. It seems to be working, because you feel an arm around your shoulders. You don’t dare look up, but instead commit yourself to selling the lie. They’ll believe it because they want to. Even his parents, long suspicious of the monster they created, won’t bring themselves to admit the truth. No-one will, so long as you play your part. You squeeze a few tears to satisfy the sideway-glancing spectators and their arrival seems to satisfy everyone around you. Their reptile nature doesn’t matter. For the moment, at least, you seem to have got away with it. He is dead and you are free.