I imagine that for most, cemeteries are sad, lonely places full of mourners or solo people struck by remembrance. Either that or the horror show variety, from the Hammer and Corman films; old gothic tales of English churchyards where the dead come back. They’re neither for me.
Sure, they can be solemn, empty, or dotted with well-wishers, but my memories of those places (speaking of ubiquity) come from my mother’s father tending to his small Albertan town cemetery.
As visiting kids we would drive the side dirt road out of town so long as it wasn’t winter, and keep him company as he mowed, trimmed, cleaned, repaired the things that all these places need to avoid falling into nothing. Something to keep the graves neat and remembered and a place where those that chose to be put there could enjoy (at least figuratively).
It was a quiet, relaxing time, if not full of kiddish amusement and running around and staving off boredom. There was the time that my mother found me near a child’s grave, who had been around the same age, on the anniversary of his death, which made her reaction was priceless. Being yanked away suddenly wasn’t as fun, however.
The cementerio de Azul seemed to fit the same sort of idea of rural small-town resting place. Everything was similar, except for the outright German expressionist style statue and architecture at the entrance, all hard angles and European sensibilities. Strong, hard lines that felt like it would be more at home in a British Museum For Victory (if there is such a place?) than a municipal grounds like this. Still, it was an amazing find.
There were a few visitors left by the time I arrived. I debated walking down the rows or not with my heavy bags and patchwork Brazilian tan, a stranger but hopefully not an intruder.
Offset from the looming gaze of the statue were some park benches, which I set down on and finished my soda, watching as the sun passed through early evening. There was that chill again, and I sneezed, feeling the telltale thickness at back of my throat, roof of my mouth.
Quite a few people had flowers, most of them ignoring me or pretending to. Two kids, thirteen or fourteen, rolled by on well-worn skateboards and made some half-hearted attempts at tricking off the scenery, even if it wasn’t built for that.
They lingered, one of them trying to catch his friend grinding with a crappy phone camera. I asked if I could help and they said no, just stay out of the shot.
I sat a bit, watching them and the beauty that is skater tenacity, and then asked after a while: what’s there to do for fun around here?
They stopped, one snorting, one turning a ball cap around on his head, absentmindedly leaning on his board, spinning it in circles.
No mucho, said ball cap.
You’re a gringo, said the snorting kid with the camera. What kind of stuff do you want to do? He said this mostly in English. At least I hope so, since slang everywhere is like a playful slap in the mouth.
Well, there’s el cigarro… started ball cap.
Don’t tell him about that! Said his friend. Gringo won’t be able to. He’s got all his stuff with him.
I hitched up my pack and said, show me.