Sometimes We Choose What We Remember

Flash Fiction by Luke Allis

The old cliché that time heals all wounds is simply complete bullshit. Time dulls the shock, but when you have a hurt that runs deep enough you always feel the sting. I thought this as I stood in front of your coffin, staring at your lifeless face. Your skin looked so fake, like a bad wax figure that had been stored in a garage in Arizona. The inch-thick layer of makeup that was supposed to make you look more masculine was funny in a morbid kind of way. The dead never look like themselves. Death takes the very essence of the person, even the body. You looked like a stranger. The difference in you would not have been so stark if they had not put you a suit and tie and given you a crew cut—you looked all wrong. They put you in that itchy suit you hated, the black one that you were forced to wear to your high school graduation. Your tie was the standard diagonal red and sliver stripes. I was there to mourn my sister, not the brother our parents insisted that I have. I pictured you in your favorite dress: blue with small white daisies littered all over the cotton fabric. I wish I could have given you the funeral you desired, the funeral you deserved.

Your funeral was nothing that you would have wanted. It was in a Catholic Church. I stood and knelt more times than I can remember, and lip-synched the prayers that I never memorized. They called you “he” and “James” instead of she or Lily. It felt all wrong. There were a lot of tears, but little crying out. Everyone was grief stricken; almost no one was able to talk. Those that did speak, talked about you as the brother and son you haven’t been in a long time. Each wrong pronoun brought me to an electric anger. You know me, I never talk in front of others unless I absolutely have to. But at your funeral, I knew that I was the only one that would stick up for you and remember you as you meant and deserved to be remembered. I made sure to address you as: she, Lily, and my sister in front of everyone. After that no one else got up to speak. Our mother yelled at me afterward: “I can’t believe you ruined your brother’s funeral by bringing up his sickness. We should remember him as he should have been not as he was.”

You’d never believe what I told her if you were there: “Fuck you Mom, that is exactly why SHE is dead now. You and your fucking hatred and denial did this to her.” Then I walked away. I haven’t spoken to any of our family since.

I wish your funeral had felt more intimate, more like a celebration of your life—like those old Irish wakes Grandpa would go on and on about. Where you partied, laughed, and told stories of the person’s life; where the only crying was from too much laughter. I am determined to remember you this way.

Luke Allis holds a BA in creative writing from San Francisco State. He is currently an Instructional Designer, aspiring writer, and MFA candidate at San Jose State University.

Also published on Medium.

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