Life, death, and a nike honk.
I’d say it started long ago, but the true catalyst was my meeting with Mr. Belcher. I usually bike from Downtown to Wynwood for a coffee, a shade, and a space to doodle, write, read, or whatever something I feel like doing. Something other than nothing, that is, after realizing that a 23 year old should have shit worth writing about. Granted, I had seen shit but I thought I’d do more.. the type of shit that gives me life I guess, or of elevating other’s sense of inspiration. Now, back to the catalyst. I would not use that word if that afternoon had not sparked the chain of events that made me believe in alchemy, magic, energy, and anything in between.
I now recall it was noon, on July 14th. The only thing unusual about that day, was that I had been walking, instead of biking, so I had more time to look at everything around me - to become more receptive. I remember stopping by an alley because a mural intrigued me at the time. It did not impress me, but it was nonetheless captivating, like unknowingly watching a TV show about people auctioning off storage units. Something beyond mediocre at least. The humidity of Miami combined with the clear sky weather had me wiping sweat off my forehead with every odd step, and I was only halfway to the cafe when I decided to stop by the City of Miami Cemetery. I had always gone past it on the bike, not curious enough or too preoccupied with getting to my near-ritualistic coffee.
The cemetery was visually cooler, and it felt that way too. Somewhat refreshing. Since I didn’t know the place, I began observing it all, without anticipation of anything in particular. The names x, y, z… beloved this, beloved … None of the names meant anything to me but I was there: walking next to and over their bodies. It didn't seem nearly as somber nor sad as it might, to you, now, but it was strange nonetheless. The thought came to me, “I am sure it is as odd for the dead to have the living pay them a visit.” Anyways, I was slightly tired and sat down on the steps of a small house-looking-tomb-thing. That’s when he showed up, Mr. Belcher that is, from behind the tomb-thing I believe. Past the tree were two geckos that had been staring at me, curious of my presence. I acknowledged theirs and sat still, ready for one of us to say something. Silence was maintained aside from the hammering and drilling of construction workers nearby. That is when I heard myself say into space “No respect for the dead”, comically really, without any true meaning. But the response came soon after, gently, even friendly.
“It is my own torment: I’ve learned to deal with it but I would die again for peace and quiet” said the voice.
“Can you do that?” I asked Mr. Belcher, curious about his current state. It wasn't empathy or care for this stranger, but curiosity. There can be no better person to ask an odd question than a dead one I thought.
“I’m still trying to figure that one out, but I know there is no way in hell I’m gonna stay suffering for eternity” said Mr. Belcher with a hopeful tone. “I am to do something, I know, maybe it’s talking to you, but I will never know.”
I didn’t question the authenticity of the words. Not because I fully believed I was talking to a ghost, but because I was entertained and did not want him to go silent. I was alone in a cemetery and his company was somewhat comforting, like that of someone puffing a midnight cigarette outside their apartment steps in an empty street. Maybe thats how he felt, in need of some air and nicotine before stepping back in. A meditative breather.
“Is it the construction that bothers you?” I ask innocently.
“Well yeah, that and everything else about this place.. sirens, helicopters, buses… I can breath the air too you know, and sometimes I choke on the smoke”
Without having to use any more words, he explained that he was there because he died without living. “I put off all the things I wished to do for another moment that never came, until my time was up” he said regretfully. That’s when my stomach began to play tricks on me. I had suddenly felt sick with nausea. He must have noticed, and said with enthusiasm “kid, you are alive!”. A slow shiver came from under me and out of me, the nausea was gone immediately. His voice echoed in my head, but he was gone. I stood up easy, calmly, and began to head out through the other side of the cemetery, vexed by my body’s response to the whole ordeal. I looked back at the tomb and, judging by the size of it, one could assume Mr. Belcher to have been a man of influence. Before reaching the exit, I stopped by to read a sign giving a brief history of the place. What struck me at the time was knowing about the first two bodies buried: The first one, paperless, on this day of July 120 years earlier, and the second one, a 23 year old foreigner a few days later. That same afternoon I met a kid who asked me if I had ever been to California, and hours later my mom asked me to visit my sister in Los Angeles.
Within a week, I was swimming in the cool Pacific waters of Santa Monica. There, I met a Buddhist anarchist with whom I walked barefoot up the mountains, a Topanga shaman who put me in a healing trance that revealed my youth, a Tibetan monk who taught me how to use meditation to deal with shivering cold, a kid named Solace who accompanied me in a time of distress, a modern prophet who made me see kindness as a power capable of the unimaginable, and a girl who made me see true attraction as blind energy that can be radiated by anyone… But those are other stories. Concerning Mr. Belcher, I trust he found his peace. His voice never came to me again but when I feel distracted, lost, or unhappy his last words come to me with the same energy that made my spine shiver on the steps of his tomb.
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