What came next was a week that tasted like salt; Friends trying not to drown each other. I don't remember the funeral at all. I'm sure it was all very somber. A pile of earth and a metal box. People expressing love too late. A cemetery that looked like a city park so you didn't have to look death in the face.
Later that day the family, our family, gathered at his favorite spot. We built a pyre for his soul in the depth our woods. We tossed beers into the fire, I think someone threw a joint. Sarah held me so long at the edge of the flames I though we'd burn too. Z was never a man of somber ceremony. I'm pretty sure they had to go buy the suit they buried him in. I took a deep drink and tossed the last bottle in. One for the road brother. A litany of broken glass and the hiss of beer on hot stone, these were prayers of our final rites. And we were angry, but not at him, or at least not only at him. We were angry at a world that kept taking and taking, no matter how far we ran from it, no matter how skillfully we hid from it.
Z's little brother reached into the military drab duffel and pulled out our standard. We passed the spiked bat brother to sister, sister to brother; I still remember how it felt in my hands for the last time before his brother tossed it on the pyre. Paint fumes and glowing nails. "I'm my own man." How many times had I heard that? How many times had I said it? That idea like the day itself disappeared forever beneath the pink and orange waves of the setting sun. Each of us was pieces of the other; broken children making each other whole. This is fact not philosophy, and that is why without knowing reasons we burned the one thing in the world that was the most all of us.
Still, the world does not end in Winter, and that day was the coming of our Spring. Some people are born to sew seeds, it gets to where they don't even know they're doing it. That was Z to a fucking T. Sarah put her hand in mine."Brian, I love you." "I love you too Sarah." We all grew together that day, crawling up and over old walls like ivy. Children of the vine ready to blossom. You would have been proud Z, I'm sorry you missed the birth.