Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 @ 8:14 pm
What do you wear to the funeral of your highschool sweetheart?
I stand in front of the closet riffling through my clothes, unable to bring myself to wear black. Doesn't seem right. Gord never owned a black piece of clothing in his life. I settle on an outfit that I love, one that makes me feel pretty, and I add a green scarf, his favourite colour.
I drive across the city, and it's the most gorgeous kind of Vancouver morning. Blazing blue sky, so much sun you think it's never burned this bright. The sea frothing with a brisk chop, the mountains a velvety green slumbering pile of cubs.
I enter the gymnasium, and Gord's photo is projected on the screen, larger than life. My breath catches in my chest, and I come against reality like into a brick wall. Gord, oh God, Gord.
I hear about the parts of his life that I never knew. Eulogies from his brother, colleagues, a former student, and his wife.
The gymnasium is full to bursting, standing room only at the back. Six, seven, eight hundred people? I recognize parents from highschool band concerts and awards ceremonies. Through the crowd, my eyes settle on familiar faces, and after a moment their features crystallize into knowing. Over an over. I say their names, and we hug, and then we talk about what's happened in the last 15 years of our lives. People that I was friends with in highschool, people from my sister's grade. One guy looks at me mischievously, and he asks if I know who he is. It takes me a moment, because he's taller and more filled out, but then I know, and it's Dan, and I say DAN! And he breaks into a huge grin. He talks about how he was a shit in highschool, and I say I regretted not being more of a shit and we laugh and he leans kind of close and it's nice and makes me actually want to go to my next highschool reunion.
The crustless sandwiches gradually disappear from the trays, the punch bowl drains. I go to find Gord's brother, and I boldly approach and say hello. Gord was a very special part of my life when I was 16 I say, and my voice quavers and begins to break up and Doug's face is so fragile and I can see the hurt in his eyes.
On the way out, my date for the event says that we should talk to his wife. I don't have the guts. She says it'll be fine. There's hardly anyone left and she's momentarily alone, so we approach. My date introduces herself, and then L looks at me. She looks me straight in the eyes and without skipping a beat she says, "You're Shannon"
The world stops turning and my heart stops beating.
You're kidding me? No. Gord had your photo on his wall at Queens, she says. You were his first girlfriend.
I can't believe it.
She turns to her sister and gestures towards me, Can you believe it, this is Gord's first girlfriend!
L is so statuesque and poised, tall and beautiful, and the strength of her character is evident. God, Gord, you had a beautiful wife. I am so lucky as to be categorized in the ranks with this woman. I am a potato digger compared to this black swan.
We leave and sit in the car and rehash the day. My mind is swirling and thick with all of the people that I talked with, of L's instant recognition of me from a photo of when I was sixteen.
Paul said that you haven't changed a bit, that you look exactly the same.
And some days I look in the mirror and can hardly recognize the person staring back at me.
Gord. Forever in my heart, Gord.