losing it

The back of the church is a thick, heavy wall-to-wall carpet of people by the time I arrive. 

I’m not remembering exactly why it is I am late, but think it has something to do with my boyfriend not being able to pick me up at the last minute.  Or maybe we arrived early with the rest of the pallbearers and their girlfriends and I left for some reason and then came back.

However it came to pass, I’m now packed tightly in a sweltering dream with just about everyone I know from high school.  We fumble through this together — like first times are often fumbled —  unaware, and unable to fully appreciate.  He was 18. 

My friend Susan is next to me, one of four or five bodies that graze me when they shift their weight or reach for a kleenex.  We exchange whispers in the stifling, motionless air and fall silent, straining to hear the service. 

Suddenly the crowd is parting and — thud!  An unidentified classmate is flat out fainted.  She’s wearing a dress, her legs splayed and oh my god — there’s a flood of pee. 

I catch Susan’s eye and we both bite the insides of our lips to seal off a hideously inappropriate attack of laughter.  Look away, Jules.  

Do.    Not.    Look at her.

The corners of my mouth twitch up like the Joker on Batman.  I sense her shaking, on the verge of losing it, and find this hilarious.  A tiny puff of laugh breath escapes me, the beginning of my own tremors.  Our lame attempts at repression are now producing low-grade fever rocks and wheezes that begin to steal the attention from the pool of pee.  We stagger to the exit, explode in the parking lot.

“You sad dog.”  

Crouched down holding my gut and praying I won’t be the next one to pee, I’m laughing too hard to respond.  When I catch my breath, it’s taken away by the sight of the hearse waiting just a few feet from where my knees are ground into the gravel.   

Then the doors of the church open.

And the lineup of pallbearers — now bearing the casket — are heading our way. 

I could tell you we sobered instantly and pulled it together before anyone noticed. 

But anyone who knows us would sooner believe we managed to whip up disguises or crawl away on our bellies to avoid being recognized.  

As Susan might say, “close call, Lucy and Ethel.”  

Author: Julie Ann Stevens

My art flows from the patterns & paths of my lived experience which ⏤ like yours ⏤ are at once deeply personal and entirely universal.

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