When Finally Set Free

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Note: I wrote this piece in late February of 2013, typing into my phone while sitting in my mom's car at the cemetery in my hometown. Next Monday will mark the nine-year anniversary of Dave's death; yesterday, I finally clicked "buy" on a small, engraved stone off Etsy to leave at his grave. Don't worry, its actual engraving is not as self-centered as the last line of this post is.

I've been here so many times, it feels like a million. Have I really only been doing this for eight years? And have I been doing this for eight years already? I remember when I counted the time since your death in Thursdays - one week, two weeks, three. For quite awhile now, though, we've counted the days not in weeks or even in months, but in years. And, soon, in decades.

When Sean & I got into the car that day to drive here from the funeral home, after the wake, the rain had already begin to come down in sheets. "It's an emo band, isn't it?" he asked. "Funeral for a Friend?"

It was catchy alliteration we'd never thought twice about before, but the phrase hung morbidly in the air between us, then & all throughout the day. Funeral for our friend. Funeral for my dead boyfriend.

It's been eight years now, & there's still no headstone with your name on it. Your father's name is there, the same as yours, & if I don't look at the dates engraved below or the difference in your middle initials, I can almost bring myself to pretend it's for you. It's not the same, but it's the only option.

Yes, I've been here so many times, it feels like a million, but something feels different today. Someone has been here recently, around the anniversary of your death, & cheap Valentine's Day decorations are littered across the grave that doesn't have your name on it. Glitter hearts made of cardboard, a shiny white wreath, a banner of little felt hearts all strung together in a row, & two dozen little stars, made of glass & painted red. Everything is brightly colored but still dirty, weathered by a recent snow, & I'm finding the result unpalatable, more uncomfortable than my usual trips here. Below the bench is what remains of a tile I painted, years ago already, that used to read, "Wherever you are, angel for me" - lyrics to a Jimmy Eat World song - with your initials & the dates of your birth & death. By now, it, too, is faded by the elements, most of the paint chipped away from the porcelain. All that remains is "DJK, '84-'05," but that's all that matters, anyway.

I pick up one of the little red stars & pocket it. I pick up another, pocket it, too. But it's not all take. I also leave something behind: I set a fresh spray of yellow roses atop the bench, a pop of foreign, unsullied color amidst all the dirty red. The stars clinking in my pocket, I whisper aloud a promise to you that I won't be back without something more permanent bearing your name, something that tells whomever comes here next that you lived & that you died & that you're buried here, too.

"Here lies the other Dave Kozak, the one who was only 20," the one who loved me.

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