By Brock Adams
I was young when I dated the girl who knew where she was to be buried. She took me to the plot once. We stood in the graveyard, both of us teenagers, our skin smooth and tight over our bones, her hand cool and small in mine. It was fall and the leaves were changing. Most of them were still in the trees, gaudy with their yellows and reds, but some of the brown ones had already fallen and the wind was pushing them around across the graves.
She knelt and touched the stone that had her name on it. It was polished granite, very clean. Her birthday was etched in below her name, followed by a dash, then a blank space where her death date would go.
“It’s pretty up here, right?” she said.
We were up on a little hill in the southern corner of the graveyard. The woods were deep and full of color to one side and on the other side the tombstones sprouted like petrified tree stumps in every direction. She wanted me to look at these things and smile and tell her that it was a beautiful spot. Instead, I looked at her kneeling there, her hair red and thick down her back, and for a moment I saw that hair dry and brittle and gray, curling stringy out of her dead skull. I saw her eyes sink into their sockets, her face crease and wrinkle like snakeskin. I saw her wither from the inside out inside her coffin, down there where the creeping things sit blind and speechless, down there beneath her polished stone.
She and I were young and wouldn’t know each other for long—we never spoke again after high school—but I already knew her life. She could go anywhere, do anything. She could make love to a French poet in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. She could eat roasted scorpion-on-a-stick on a houseboat in Hong Kong or mother a family of four in Nebraska. Anywhere she went, she would be back here.
“Do you like it?” she said.
In the neighboring plots were stones of her dead great-grandparents and her dead grandfather, and another unfinished one for the still-living grandmother. Her parents and her sister all had half-dated stones nearby. Eight feet of empty grass stretching out at the foot of each stone and the trees aflame all around us.
“It fits you,” I said.