Parting Ways

by Randall DeVallance

There was the death, of course, and the funeral and a week later, Marianne visited the grave for the first time. She took along a small bouquet of roses, white ones, and laid them on the grass in front of the headstone. Knowing she needed this time alone, I waited by the car and smoked a cigarette. I fully admit that I was indifferent to her plight, but I had no desire to upset her further, and so kept myself at a distance where I would not have to become involved.

The person who died I did not know. But to Marianne it was someone important, which I guess made her important to me. It was sunny and cold, and a breeze made Marianne’s long, blonde hair swirl and dance like the clouds of smoke I pushed from my lips. It was the only thing distinguishing her from one of the monuments: she stood perfectly erect, head bowed, hands clasped in front of her waist. Dressed all in black–the heels and the stockings, the peacoat and beret–she seemed only more pale.

An hour passed that way, but I was not impatient with her. The cemetery was not unappealing to me: aesthetically, I had the deepest appreciation for it. The exactness of the monuments, the obvious care that went into their making, from the grandest mausoleum to the most modest grave marker, spoke of a sincerity that had seemingly disappeared from our lives. It had retreated here, to a place where cynicism could never intrude, where the source of all our dread and bitter joys was memorialized, spreading out beyond the edge of sight, in every direction, to a place my eyes could not reach.

When the sun had fallen lower, filtered gold through the bows of the oak trees that dotted the grounds, I summoned the courage to speak Marianne’s name. But she made no answer, and I could see then that she was already too far gone, that no matter what I said or how I pleaded, she was simply not ready to leave. Perhaps she would never be ready. Coming up behind her, I leaned in and kissed her one last time on the cheek. Her eyes remained fixed on the headstone as I got in the car and drove away, leaving her to recede in the rearview mirror.

Randall DeVallance is a writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. His stories have appeared in the anthology Dirt (The New Yinzer), Deek Magazine, McSweeney’s, Eyeshot, Facsimilation, and many other publications in print and online. His first novel, Dive, was published this past fall by Exquisite Cadaver Press.