There’s something about seeing a familiar place. Even a place of sadness and evil. Despite all the negative feelings we may have about a place, I find myself just the tiniest bit happy and the very back of my mind for at least being a place that I know and that’s familiar. That happiness quickly goes away, depending on how bad it is, but sometimes I get angry at myself for experiencing that second of joy. I was having that same feeling once again, as I stood in an all too familiar place, a graveyard in a white space. I found myself starting at the exit gate, a gate that was rather small and pathetic. The gate was shut, but it wasn’t even locked. There were others in this graveyard, but very few at the graves near the exit. The people walking through the graveyard were all of varying heights and ages despite their similar features, but there were many groups where it was hard to tell the difference between who was who. Some popped out of a particular headstone like it was a portal to simply bow their head or cry. These graves were very strange, but as one of the oldest here, I knew where the ones I wanted to see were, and what they meant. Some headstones looked like they had just been put there, while others had major chunks missing in several parts of them. Some had different thickness of gashes in them. Some had chunks and gashes of varying sizes.
There were the usual grave stones with two years listed, a birth and a death, but there were stranger ones as well. Some had a time. Or a grouping of years like Teen Years. Or Highschool years. Some headstones with a name had two times listed rather than the usual two years that are etched on grave stones. It was the gravestones at the beginning that were the most crowded and had sustained the most damage. As I made my way towards the front, people in my way parted. Even with our similar features, we somehow always knew each other’s ages, and as one of the oldest here, I was given a lot of respect. There were never replicas of any grave. Except one. Past the first row of graves, there was one lone grave stone and one sole occupant. The youngest. They clung to the grave, their feet and fingers locked together on the other end as the gravestone shed rocks. Everyone knew that grave was for the boy, and only the boy to visit. Anyone else dared approach, and he would raise his voice twice as loud and he would attack the intruder. So, a replica of that boy’s headstone was made and was one of the most crowded and had the most diverse age groups together out of all graves at this place. The people at the replica grave parted for me and allowed me a clear view of the grave. But I was quickly distracted by one of the people at this grave. The person distracting me, they were barely a year younger than me.
They were shaking and rocking back and forth. But it wasn’t sadness. There were no tears. He had a fist covering his lips and his eyes here misty and unfocused. He was deep and in thought. And he didn’t like what was on his mind, but wanted to act on it. He eventually seemed to make up his mind. He sighed and took a deep breath, then marched over to the boy alone at his headstone. He positioned himself against the white space entrance wall and put his hands on his sides and started to pull, using the wall to ground himself.
“Alright, C’mon. You’ve been here long enough. It’s time to be done now.” he grunted as he pulled.
The boy wailed and screamed. The others turned with frowns and disappointment on their faces, but they had a little hope and longing mixed in. The boy hit the one pulling him, and the one pulling gave up and went sulkily back to the replica grave and tried to look like he had never moved at all. This wasn’t the first time someone had attempted to move the boy. We all knew, even the younger ones, that it was unhealthy for a boy of that age, to spend all his time crying and clutching a gravestone. No one had succeeded. The boy had started by kneeling at the grave and weeping. An older boy had almost coaxed the boy away from the grave by talking calmly and smoothly to him, but when the older one accidentally said, “There’s no need to be at that grave anymore.”
The boy’s eyes widened and he ran back. When talking stopped working, we tried starting to simply pull the boy away. Leading to his current position. Clutching at the grave as if it was his lifeline. The name on the boy’s grave made me think of people I had lost. I jerked back when I saw someone familiar move. Someone just mere seconds younger than me. They broke away from the replica graves and started going in a strange direction. I was curious about which grave they were trying to visit. It didn’t look like it was going to be one of my most frequently visited. He didn’t seem to notice or maybe he didn’t care that I was following him. We made our way through the crowds and the mass and maze of the headstones. He finally stopped at a grave. I sighed. I knew this grave. It wasn’t one I liked to visit. There were graves I could at least throw myself a pity party at, and those tended to be the easiest for me to visit. But there were ones of simple sadness or guilt. I saw the name on the headstone and sighed. It was a headstone with a name I knew all too well, and as expected, and under it the heading “From The Childhood Years” rather than the conventional listing of a birth and death year.
I looked back at the grave with the boy back to weeping all alone. I wasn’t able to stop the boy either. I wasn’t able to save him. But this one. This one kneeling at the grave with a tear falling down his face, this one I may be able to save. I stoop down and pat his shoulder. He looks up and wipes his face.
“He’s alive, you know.” I said, pointing to the name on the grave. He nods.
“I still miss him.” he says, gesturing to the “From The Childhood Years.” under the name.
I sigh. “I sometimes find myself missing him too. That time may be dead, but that person is still alive. You can get to know them right now. In your time.”
He shook his head. “It’s not the same anymore. I barely recognize him. I don’t know who he is anymore. I don’t know how to talk to him.”
I gripped his shoulder. “Does that mean you should give up? You can’t stop this…” I say, gesturing to “The Childhood Years” part. “From dying. But you can stop your relationship from the here and now from dying. I know you know that.”
He sniffed and let me pull him up. “I’ll try.” he said sniffling.
And I believed him. I watched as he turned around and left. Well, it would set a bad example and make my words less impactful if I stayed any longer after that speech, so I turned around and began to head back to the exit. One who couldn’t be saved, but one who could. This was no guarantee that he or anyone else there would never visit that grave again, or that the headstone would disappear from the power of love, or magic, or elegant speeches. There would maybe even be a time where I would find myself at that same headstone. But what today did prove to me again, that it was possible to remove someone from a headstone. I reached the exit and gave it a push forward, taking one last look at that place for now at least. The boy at the grave by the entrance wall caught my attention again. And, as it had just been proven to me again, if someone could be saved from their grave they liked to weep at, perhaps that held true for the boy as well. I smiled a hopeful smile, careful to close the gate behind me, and thought in the back of my mind,
“I wonder how long I can go before I find myself back there again?”
Mr. Williams states:
“I’ve been writing for a long time. However, I recently realized that I write to process and understand myself and the world around me. I write for its freedom. And I write with the hope of finding my freedom outside the world of writing as well. “