taking naps in graveyards

11 March 2012 § Leave a comment

On a sunny and lazy Sunday afternoon, I accidentally found the cemetery in Boquete, which is a popular expatriate retirement town in Western Panama, but also a place where people seem to live forever.

Rainy season is especially wet, as you might imagine, being in the tropics and all that (thought there are a lot of pine trees here, which make it slightly less tropical in my eyes). So burying coffins only works until the earth pukes them up again come October. You see, when the rains saturates the ground too much, it turns foreign objects away, like a piece of pencil lead stuck in your shoulder – the body will do everything it can to get rid of the thing.

Instead, they build family sized-tombs – usually with two to four slots, kind of like morgue drawers. Sometimes there’s a miniature slot on top, which might be for trinkets one didn’t want passed on to dipshit nephews, but more likely for babies (which is only natural, you might think, until you see how fucking many there are). Most of the tombs are decorated in ceramic tile, the sort people have a floors in their homes, and which the local hardware stores feature on plywood displays out front. Some of them are downright pretty.

Like I said, people live forever in Boquete, except for the kids I guess, because most of the dates feature the same decade, if not the same century. August 1887 to June 1981, June 1917 to September 2007, 26 May 1915 to 3 March 2012 – you get the idea.

And I thought I did too, until I realized that the last one, Mélida de González, died a week ago today. The cement set around her drawer was still wet, and that the little red bugs which crawled in rapid, robotic bursts of energy were finding their way into the crack in the wet stone, maybe because they smelled something the valley’s most famous couple, wind and bajareque, take far away from here. A blue vase laid under what I presumed to be her husband’s slot, broken, stuffed with a stone in place of flowers. There was no sad mound of fresh dirt to let me know the undertaker was still in business, just a few gravel rocks strewn about not yet picked up by loved ones.

The more I looked around the graveyard, the closer the birth-death dates moved to one another, like time hugging itself, and the ceramic shells became less ornate. The bajareque, a refreshing aerosol of a rain that never quite manages to soak anything, softened to a mist, and the blue sky above me never gave in to the clouds, which didn’t want to let go of the mountains, ever.

I’d taken naps in cemeteries where friends had been buried thinking that it was time well spent. Where Mélida’s concrete had still been drying, the miniature box above her was long closed and painted over. I’ll have time for that kind of stuff later.

I guess regardless of the decade, it never seems like forever.


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