Split Screen

television-set

November 21, 2010 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

 

It’s late Sunday afternoon. A cold wind rises off the Allegheny and snakes around the tall buildings that ring the heart of the city. It blows so hard that the white prayer shawl, which serves as the wedding canopy, is in danger of blowing into the darkening sky. My friend Ezra’s son stomps on the glass, the guests shout “mazal tov,” and soon everyone is clapping and singing.

I can’t keep from smiling as Ezra beams, and just before his son descends the stage with his new bride, I watch as he kisses him gently on the forehead.

Ezra’s brother and son in law each take one of Ezra’s arms. If they were to let go for even a moment, he would fly off into the heavens from sheer joy.

As his son and his new bride melt into the crowd, Ezra takes his wife’s hand and he sings, almost as a whisper —or an afterthought. The sound that passes from his lips is unearthly.

I look down at my watch; it’s exactly a quarter to five.

 

November 28, 2010 – City Of Commerce, California

 

It’s late Sunday afternoon. A cold wind rises off the San Bernardino Mountains and snakes around the low-slung warehouse buildings that ring the cemetery. It blows so hard that the white tarp protecting the newly dug dirt from an imminent rain is in danger of blowing into the darkening sky. There’s nothing green here, no fountains, no pretense of comfort or consolation. This is after all, a place for my friend Noah to bury his dead.

I can’t keep from crying as Noah covers his face, and just before the first of the mourners climb the small pile of dirt to take hold of the shovels, I watch as he stumbles.

Noah’s brother and son in law each take one of Noah’s arms. If they were to let go even for a moment, he would fall into the open grave.

As the first scoop of dirt hits his son’s casket, Noah drops to his knees and he moans, almost as a whisper —or an afterthought. The sound that passes from his lips is unearthly.

I look down at my watch and strangely…now too, it’s exactly a quarter to five.

 

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