When people pass away, some say they always find a way back to our world. They send signals to you as a way of life after death. Seems insane? Want proof? Well, my whole body is living evidence that they do come back, in some form or another. Whenever you pass by a funeral, it always seems tragic how the mourners lean in on the deceased’s grave, whispering goodbyes, wondering where they are now. To me, it’s just another name slicing its’ way on my back along with all the others. Since the day I was born, every single person who died in my miniature, unknown coastal town would have his/her name written on my back, through my skin. At first the sensation was excruciating but after seventeen years, you’d have to get used to its’ burning effect. As we sent Old McPherson to his eternal peace, my eternal hell gained one more demon. Great. Just what I need; another wise guy thinking he could benefit me with some quote about life and destiny. Join the club McPherson; everyone from my grandma to my own father is in it. *************************************************************************************
We were all stationed in the famous McPherson living room where all events from clarinet recitals to wedding receptions took place. I’ve had a piano concert of my own back when I was trying to fight my situation. I was convinced I could forget about the names on my back or the weird writing that appeared on my skin when I most definitely did not ask for it. Well, let’s just say it was fun while it lasted. When I gave up trying, I resorted to a more intoxicating solution; alcohol and lots of it.
If I were you, I wouldn’t get my hopes up; it’s not like the McPherson family is royal or anything; it’s just that their house was located directly on the only private beach in Brightly, the most colorful town you could find on earth. From ten-storey venetian red buildings to small teal cottages, we have it. I mean, you’d have to be color-blind to ask why our town was called that way. Well, that or inevitably stupid like that kid who’d asked me about it last Friday. “Hi!” he exclaimed brightly (ironic) as if we’d been long lost siblings or something. “Umm…Hello?” I answered in a question form than an answer. “I’m Sandler. I’m new here” he toned it down a notch but the excitement was still audible. “U-huh” I solemnly replied as I fished for my wallet in my locker. This guy was a creep and I decided I was giving him the mono-syllable treatment. Who knows, maybe he’ll be a chap and take a hint. “And I was wondering, why DO they call it Brightly town?” He said as if he’d just asked the most complicated, thought provoking question in his damn life. I stared. I had to. This guy was a complete idiot. It took all my nerves to be polite and answer him (mono-syllables isn’t going to cure this kid) Jeez I don’t know maybe because the whole town looks like a freaking color festival!! “Why don’t you ask the history teacher? I’m sure he is the best source about the history of the name” I pointed out to him with a polite smile, finally tearing my eyes away from the clown in front of me and dashing straight to the door just in time to catch the bus heading downtown.
“Why don’t you have some wine, honey?” My mind returned to reality just in time to see my mum holding two glasses of expensive red wine and handing me one. As I took it I realized I was twitching from the pain of the McPherson name slowly printing on the small of my back. Even after all those years, you still have to feel the pain. It’s karma I guess. I took a slow sip from my glass, making sure I savor every bit of alcohol in this bloody thing. It wasn’t effective but it calmed me down as it flowed through my veins. I was staring at my palms to avoid the stares of angry mothers wondering why in the world my mother lets me drink when a message appeared in the centre of my hands. If ya’ll gonna strive, then strive for the good stuff it said and I could almost hear McPherson saying it with his heavy southern accent as he chewed down tobacco whilst drinking champagne. Classy. Man, you moved real fast in the group for someone who just died I thought to myself, hoping he could peer into my mind and get the mental note.
My mother was pregnant with me when she and my dad lived in their modest loft in Florida. Yes, I had a dad of my own who was the type to document my mother’s every step towards the holy day of giving birth to me. He’d record everything from morning sickness to the “nesting period” as they called it. Whenever I’d look at the pictures, I’d see them kissing and hugging each other so close, it was impossible to determine where one’s body ended and the other started. On the night of my birth, my mother was determined to deliver me in the comfort of her own bed while my dad prepared the basics; towels, cologne and hot water. While he was preparing the essentials, it struck my mother that she forgot the family’s traditional baby blanket in the car. She quickly descended five storeys despite being in labor, just in time to avoid the biggest explosion resembling an atom smasher. The deafening sound along by the building’s façade; a black body bursting into flames and self-destructing instantly left her dumbstruck. People struggled to help her to a hospital. Guess where she landed? The Brightly Public Health Station located a few miles outside Brightly to help those in need. The minute I was born was the minute my first spirit died as well and the minute my hell began and the burden of all those people who died because my father forgot the gas chamber for a while and the whole stove exploded causing the death of twelve families was on me. From that day on, everyone who died in Brightly had their name engraved on my back and was enlisted in the “let’s-give-advice-to-the-freak” group where strange messages would appear momentarily on my hands, then fade away just as fast.
People were still staring as I sipped the last of my wine and handed my glass to Mrs. McPherson who took it with a sad smile. She always felt sympathetic when it came to my mum and me. She worked as a nurse back when my mum gave birth to me at the station and she felt sorrowful that we’d both just lost it all in one big fire. I tried to show a little remorse for the sake of not sounding rude when I heard the human mosquito Stacey Anderson whisper to someone next to me “Why doesn't she sip the whole bottle with a straw. Go to rehab, freak”. I shot her a blazing look and for a fraction of a second, I swear I could almost see through her soul. She just stared back in terror as if I’d caught her in the midst of a dirty deed. I was going to make some cynic remark about how I could send her with McPherson any time of the day (I wouldn’t mind bearing the pain of her name written on my back. At least this time, it would be worth it) when my mum grabbed my hand fast, squeezing it softly, her way of saying “I love you but I can't deal with you losing it in public right now”. I got the message clearly, settling back in my seat, the adrenaline pumping and burning through my veins like hot lava. I took another glass of wine, gulping it down this time instead of taking small sips. I can’t deal with the abused alcoholic daughter sob- story right now.
My mother knew about the names the moment I came into this world. As a toddler, I would bawl for hours every time someone was sent to the underworld. People thought it was sweet that a child cared enough about the people who died and was crying for their loss. Nonetheless, my mother and I knew better. When I was eight, I got invited to a pool party and my mum spent an entire day searching for a swimsuit that covered my back. When she couldn’t find anything, she specifically told me to keep my dress on and NOT swim. Of course I, being stupid and determined as I could ever be, took the first signal when she wasn’t looking as my cue to dive in. Suddenly, the music stopped and there was silence followed by an incredible buzz floating in the air from all the whispers. I blankly looked around to see my mother racing her way through the crowds to cover my back. I learned later on that people accused her of several things starting with sadism and ending with child abuse that people used as an excuse for my drinking problem ( my mother only let me drink because it eased the pain of the engravings) when my mother was as innocent as they are and I was the devil in disguise. After that, I wore nothing but long sleeves all year round. The preacher was making his speech now. It was funny at times to ease the pain and tragic at others. However, the part that truly suffocated me was the part when he talked about McPherson being present among us. Sometimes I wish I could shout out “He’s right here invading my life for the love of god!”; but; instead, I tugged at the collar of my heavy black sweater and motioned my mum that it was my time to leave and it took me a simple nod to sprint to the door. Outside, the air was cooler than ever and for that brief second, life felt normal.
It's those few minutes after a funeral when life goes back to its monotonous pattern but you're not sure if it's the same anymore. The people who died in Brightly are few and you grew up to know them your whole life (sometimes I thank God they aren't that many or else I wouldn't live past five years.) A few minutes later, more and more people started to join me out in the garden. I would’ve been annoyed if I wasn’t scared of my own thoughts at the time. I occasionally went suicidal when I'd know that I've seen one too many funerals. I saw my mother talking to Mrs. McPherson on the yellow porch when I decided to wait for her by the iron benches by the beach. It was enough I was living with this guy through the rest of my life and his eternity; I had plenty of memories to fill that. Just as I turned to unlock the side gate, a hand touched my shoulder. I didn’t know what to take at first; the lightness of the hand resting like a cushion on me; the fact that I spun so fast I was sure I looked like Taz from Looney tunes; the fact that the face I was looking at was indeed the face of an angel, it’s features each perfect on its own to create the flawless portrait of the guy standing in front of me. It was all so overwhelming, I felt myself faint into another world and returned in the blink of an eye when he cleared his throat and said in a husky voice “You forgot your jacket back there and since it has that pretty broach I figured you might want it”. Oh my god… I could just melt in his arms right now. Was this real? I beamed, feeling the glow that I was feeling inside radiate off my skin when I reply “Thank you so much. It’s my grandmother’s broach so it is quite valuable to me”. Nailed it. I wasn't going to let a funeral rain on my parade and besides, the guy isn't even dead . Not in the real sense of it anyway. “Thought so” he winked heavily as if we'd just shared a secret before starting toward a crowd standing by the front walk. There was something unwavering about him although I ignored instantly. I let out a sigh as if I'd been gasping for air this entire time before hearing the unmistakable sound of a moron, ruining my entire mood.
“Hi!” Surely enough this kid was dummy. What I failed to miss was that he was a determined dummy. One that even though I managed to escape on Friday, he was definitely sticking around longer than that. I started to walk across the boardwalk, pretending that I hadn’t heard him and praying to the lord I wouldn’t have to kick his ass. If Friday was just a conversation starter, I wasn’t going to stay any longer for the real discussion. That would have some serious damage to my IQ. Serious damage. Just when I thought I’d escaped the terror of being forever struck with stupidity, he chased after me. Wonderful; he’s a stalker. I knew I needed my peppermint spray for something. "hiya friend! Guess you didn't hear me back there" ok friend?! This kid's out if his mind. That said though, he's no grave danger " sorry" I mumbled as my attention lay elsewhere and by elsewhere, I mean to the hot guy in the blazer who I had been dumbstruck to have met. He met my gaze for a nanosecond and his eyesglistened as I gazed at him walking down the board walk, the wind rustling through that perfectly groomed blond hair and...wait...is that a stubble I see? BONUS! "...I saw that you met my cousin earlier. .." the Sandler kid continued and my attention sprang up to those words. "excuse me. This is your cousin??" I ask in disbelief. How come this is his cousin?! They bare no resemblance what so ever! No no no he can't be! While hotty McPherson funeral guy (his new nickname that I gave him) was elegant, handsome and well, mature, Sandler was a complete opposite; he was of below average intelligence, had dark curly hair that floated around him like a dark cloud and he had chicken legs and wore extremely tight pants to, in my opinion, emphasize how stick-like they are! "Yeah Luke's kind of the charming type but I can pass as a lady killer any day" he nudged me playfully. I chuckled. I had to. This guy had no idea about the difference between hot and…well…let’s face it…not. “There you go! Not an actual smile but a laugh too!” Somehow between my daydream Sandler had already taken comfort in dragging me across the boardwalk. I was literally being forced to shuffle my feet. At that moment, Sandler looked more like a kid than ever, pulling me with all his strength towards the beach and then final giving up in order to roll his skinnyyy pants and jump in between the waves like he was Lucky the dalmatian. He was right, he could make me laugh. Not only did I chuckle till my stomach felt like it was punched, but I also joined him in a chicken dance in the water! By the time we were done, I was a wet mess and Sandler's curls sprang to life, dancing up and down as he tilted his head towards me and told me " See you at s-cocococoool!" and I waved "you too, Chicken little" . Behind him, I saw Luke holding a water proof jacket, staring square into my eyes. Standing in the faint sun, he looked almost iridescent. When Sandler approached him, he gave him a head rub and threw the jacket on him. Sandler waved one last time as if he was a puppy reluctant to go. Realising I was still staring at them, I mouthed a "goodbye" and nodded, just in time to catch my mother walking down the board walk and locking hands with her as we made our way home.