Afraid to look at the car, yet consumed by a morbid curiosity, her eyes swept over the smashed body and peered inside. Bloodied glass everywhere. His blood! The news broke that very day. After lingering in hospital for several hours, he succumbed to his injuries. A night of drunken carousing and life was over at age 21. How fortunate for her they had parted ways the month before. She could well have been a passenger in that vehicle of death! Ironically, she was just learning to drive. It affected her state mind and fuelled a burning need to see the wreckage.
There would be two days of visitation, followed by a Catholic funeral mass, then interment. This was her first brush with death and the grief overwhelmed her. She couldn’t face going to the funeral home alone and enlisted a friend to lean on. According to rumours, the family had insisted on an open casket, despite the severity of his injuries. Hard to find a sombre outfit. It was 1971 and her wardrobe was full of mini skirts and hot pants. That black maxi skirt at the back of the closet would have to do! Knees trembling, stomach tight; she waited for her friend to collect her.
As they entered the visitation room, she could feel all eyes boring into her. Some people were whispering and she guessed what they were saying. “That’s the slut he was involved with.” Older generation Italians didn’t take kindly to outsiders and she wasn’t even Catholic – the ultimate sin! Her friend gripped her arm and muttered: “Ignore them!” Shaking now. They slowly made their way to the casket. He was wearing his best dark blue suit, with a white shirt and striped tie. She’d never seen him in a tie before. This was the era of colourful printed shirts and open collars. On closer inspection, she realized the hair was a wig. Yes, it was black, but a different style! She barely recognized his face and noticed the heavy makeup. Feeling sick and trying not to faint, she leaned in a little closer, then recoiled in horror! Part of his nose was missing, the side facing the mourners propped up by toothpicks. She stifled a scream and embraced her friend. “Please get me out of here.”
That spectre haunted her for years. She refused to attend any more visitations, until decades later when a close friend passed away. His was a peaceful death and there was nothing to fear, yet that feeling of horror returned. Visions of that broken face from long ago, swam before her eyes and they filled with tears.
Literature on DRINKING AND DRIVING
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