I have a wide variety of clients, all of whom are dead when we meet. This one was old and comported himself in a moneyed fashion, hence the grand cemetery at the top of town. He must have been notable, for there were many people there to watch the gilded coffin as it was worked up the treacherous, time-worn steps.
And I, a stranger to them all, cried the loudest and the hardest.
When someone is so unlovable that no one will weep for them, or so vain that they fear not enough will, I am called. Some relatives like to tell me about the deceased beforehand, in long talks to my sympathetic, half-listening ear as I murmur comforting sounds. But my feelings are not rooted in empathy; instead I approach it like a question of physics. All life is a simple redirection of energy: money goes from person to person, false feelings go to false tears, bodies go to the ground.
My presence is confusing for loved ones under their shroud of grief. They mistake my wailing for true emotion, or for a suggestion of vulnerability. Even now, this one is looking out of the car window as we drive away from the rain-soaked ceremony, one hand on his handkerchief, the other one making a journey to my leg.
A suggestion is all that men need most of the time. Another simple redirection of energy, and just like that a hand on my knee becomes a hand I can hold. I don’t gently squeeze, or give them too much cause to think about the body attached to the palm, but my grip is firm. Behind the veil, my tears are long dry.
Chris Yeoh (cyeoh.com) is a writer and musician from Glasgow, UK. He edits ‘Mob-Handed Press’, a series of collaborative songbooks, and was recently long-listed for the Autumn Reflex Fiction 2017 Flash Fiction Competition.