I wasn’t supposed to be here. If anyone saw me peeking out from between these long wheat stalks, I would be dragged out, screaming and crying, and told off in front of everyone. But I couldn’t stay away. Not when it was Grandmother.
I watched as they lay the logs one above the other. Why were they doing this the traditional way? It feels barbaric. I felt uneasy as the pile of logs grew bigger. I pulled my eyes away from the funeral pyre to the people.
A group of men stood around trying to look stoic and unmoved. Where I come from, women aren’t allowed to attend funerals. At the head, stood Dad and Grandfather. I squinted at Dad. Was he going to cry? I had never seen my father cry. Ever. A hard, dry lump formed in my throat. I forced it down and turned my attention back to Grandmother.
She lay on a cotton bed to the side. She looked like she was sleeping. I had a wild thought. What if they had made a mistake? I imagined jumping out of the field and running into the crematorium, Grandmother waking up in the commotion, and everyone praising me for saving her life. I shook my head. They must have checked. She’s really dead.
My feet were tired from all the standing and waiting and peeping, so I decided to sit, cross-legged on the ground. I quickly realized that I had lost my vantage point of the funeral, but I decided it was okay.
I heard the grunt of men lifting Grandmother onto the pyre and thought of all the summers I had spent on her lap, listening to stories. She made me want to be a storyteller. I heard the crackle of a log catching on fire and thought of her soft voice as I fell asleep to the Kings being victorious. I heard the primal howl emanating from my father’s throat, the smell of charred wood and skin. I closed my eyes and thought of all the ways I would try to make Dad feel better back home. I realized nothing could.
I thought again of Grandmother and her peaceful smile. My chest felt tight. I decided I was okay with women not attending funerals. I never wanted to go to one ever again. I didn’t know then that the worst comes after the funeral.
(*I wrote this on assignment in an hour last night. My grandmother died when I was fifteen. I missed her funeral.)