This month, I took a four day weekend to a country town where I remembered seeing a small church. The church was one of those white wooden Colonial steeple churches nestled on a hillside with cows in the surrounding field and a small wrought-iron fence holding in the marble slabs. The road turned to gravel as the church came in sight. I parked alongside the rain ditch that followed the road down the hill. A cow looked at me and slowly plodded away as the smell of hot dung infiltrated the car. I drew in my last sweet breath and got out.
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The fence was broken open; rusted, bent awkward, proof that I was about to score new discoveries. I stepped over the fence having learned long ago that rusted metal splinters in the sun. Horseflies were buzzing around the cows, crickets sang like cracking bones, the grass and gravel of the church yard crunched beneath my shoes. Cemetery loving, my vacations are all spent roaming grassy knolls, verifying plot locations, chalking parchment rubbings. I once had fantasies of New York City, Rock & Roll, and High Society but after a year in not-so-gay Paris I realized all I really needed was a sense of history.
Cemeteries always center me. They remind me I am not alone, that my hardships are just a part of living � not unique to me but universal to all mankind. Whenever I enter a cemetery an overwhelming feeling of love and reverence for life chills me to a stand-still and I stop to take in all the markers for all those interred, recognizing that each person had a family and was loved enough to be remembered in the permanence of stone. I spied a bench along the south side of the church.
Sitting, I dug through my rubbings kit and pulled out a crisp sheet of parchment and a broad, black chuck of chalk. My eyes scanned over the headstones. One kept catching my eye but I wanted to save it as last, too be reward for rubbing some less-interesting names and designs. In my notebook I drew maps of every cemetery I visited, writing numerals down for each grave so I could later map the exact locations of rubbing I�d taken. This had become a short and quick process, knowing the approximate age of the cemetery by assessing the roads, flora and fauna, circumstantial conditions of nearby buildings, and the headstones themselves I could calculate how many plots would be laid out assuming the parish followed the standards of the era.
I decided to randomly pick a number from my map and walked to it around the other side of the church. Number 8; resting against the fence, the headstone was horizontally cracked in half and all identifying information was washed away by rain. I grabbed a small excavation brush from my bag and twiddled around the face of the stone but the grains just fell away exposing more grains. I cursed the cheap granite.
After encountering four other headstones just as worthless for rubbing I decided to do the one that had caught my eye. It was taller than the rest and had contours different from any I�d ever seen. I took a few photos as I approached.
The back of the stone looked surprisingly like a person standing but I thought nothing of it as angels or representations of the deceased are common enough. As I rounded the statue, however, I saw a likeness unlike any other. It was eerie how the eyes followed me as I made ready to rub. Because I felt awkward covering such a remarkable face, I opted to take photos instead. The more photos I shot the more curious I grew. The marker was obscured by ivy so I pulled and yanked it away from under the feet. When I looked up to the face the eyes still seemed to be upon me, in fact the whole head seemed to have turned to watch as I haltingly tugged the vines. A smile curved the marble exterior and the ivy obstinately clung to the base of the statue. What was this? I had never encountered anything quite so delirious. A panic grabbed me and I stood to look closer at the statue when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I screamed and turned around in a leap but no one was there. When I returned to face the statue I felt certain it was in a different position. The fabric had changed and it wasn�t looking at me anymore, as though it were trying to hide something. As though it was playing a trick on me and found it funny.
I smirked at it, �you think that�s funny, huh?� I said. The statue didn�t move. �Well, I guess I�d better be going.� I walked a few steps and turned around quickly. The statue was gone. I ran back and felt around the dirt where the statue had been. I located a small metal plaque. Rubbing it off with my fingers I uncovered letters stamped into it which read: So, too, go the wicked, as with wine in the cup, time holds for no one.
It's better to be looked over than overlooked.