She stands with the rest of the family to greet anyone who happened to come see "the body". Why they call it a body, she doesn't know. The woman lying in that casket in the satin lilac nightgown is still a person, dead or alive. Dead or alive, that girl still considered the woman in the casket to be her grandmother.
Maybe I should mention that girl is me.
They're crying. Everyone is; this is a viewing. Even my brother, the man of iron will—whom I have only seen cry once—has tears forming at the corner of his glassy chocolate eyes. It's no mystery that he's trying to hold it together, not just for himself, but for the whole row of us that stand there. Perhaps it has something to do with how his aunt is sobbing beside him.
Maybe I should mention my brother and I have different fathers.
As I watch my family weep, I feel every muscle in my body stiffen on instinct. From day one, I have always been an overly-sensitive person, one that could burst into a fit of tears at the drop of a hat. But I do not cry when others do. It's a defect in my blueprints, the blueprints my mother has left a gigantic mark on. When others cry, we both throw ourselves into autopilot and stand tall for those who need a shoulder to cry on.
Maybe I should mention my mother is crying, too.
The people walk by, some that I know, some that I don't. Names are thrown at me. They fall on deaf ears. I just accept their sympathies, handshakes, and hugs with a grim smile that's permanently carved into my face. The all too familiar burning at the back of my eyes worsens, and I blink a few times to hold back the leak of tears. Words spin in my head, the words that I cling to for dear life, "I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry."
I am numb. The world is spinning too fast, and I can't hang on. The wailing of my aunt grows louder, and I shift on my feet. All I want is to go home and sort out my thoughts. But the thoughts won't wait, and I find myself sifting through them right there and then.
Things around me don't seem real. She can't be dead, can she? I find myself thinking. I saw her die, saw the cancer take her away, held her hand.
Realization sinks in.
She chose that very moment to make her appearance. A friend of the family, one I've known since babyhood. She stares at me through her glasses, brown eyes glassy. I try to fake a smile. She hugs me, and I am reluctant at first to return it. Right now I want more than anything to be alone. Then she whispers, "Are you okay?" I can't lie. I break down and cry on her shoulder.
Maybe I should mention I'm only twelve.