By Aevin Mayman
It wasn’t rainy. It wasn’t the slate-clouded funeral written about in overly-dramatic teen romance novels, a black understory of parasol trunks and supporting wire vines. It was sunny, a spring day. The cherry trees were just past full bloom, their pinks undertoned by suggestions of green. Each gust of wind carried with it a plume of petals. The drifting leaflets spiraled around black dress pants, embroidering the somberness with a distant reminiscence of joy.
Ashtyn stood against a nearby dogwood, absentmindedly peeling strips of bark from its trunk. The approach of footsteps drew his gaze.
Tyler waved and stopped next to Ashtyn. “Hey,” he said.
Ashtyn offered a small smile in return and went back to peeling at the trunk.
“How are you holding up?” Tyler asked, stepping closer.
Ashtyn shrugged and put his hands in his pockets, gazing out over the uniform gravestones, verdant undergrowth framing them like unkempt dragon scales. “I’m alright.” He answered with a shrug of his shoulders.
Tyler frowned at him. “Just alright?”
Ashtyn sighed, kicking at the dirt. “Barely, but, yeah.”
Tyler shook his head, turning his back to Ashtyn to face the memorial gathering. He crossed his arms, jamming them forcefully against each other and shaking his head. “It’s just not fair,” he muttered. “It’s not.”
Ashtyn stood still for a few moments before sliding down to the ground. He dropped his head in his hands. “How am I even supposed to be upset?” He asked, voice quavering. “No one I’ve ever known has died before, much less–” He broke off and swallowed thickly. “Much less done what he’s done.” He fell into silence, raising his head to his knees to stare blindly at the grass before him.
Tyler sat next to him and leaned back against the tree. “You know,” Tyler began softly. “I didn’t cry when I got the news.”
Ashtyn turned his head to face Tyler, head tilted curiously.
Tyler smiled wryly and shook his head. “I didn’t cry, and then I didn’t for almost week. I was just…angry.”
Tyler held up a placating hand at Ashtyn’s indignant expression.
“Not angry at him for dying, no, I’m not that mean. I was just angry because it wasn’t– it isn’t goddamn fair that he has to die.” Tyler’s voice cracked at the end and he heaved a humorless chuckle, hanging his head between his knees.
Ashtyn linked arms with Tyler, leaning against his shoulder. They sat that way for a while before Ashtyn broke the silence. “I don’t think I cried either,” Ashtyn murmured. “I think I was just numb.” He tightened his grip on Tyler’s arm before continuing. “I couldn’t think of anything else. I made a sort of make-shift altar, but, that was it.” Ashtyn shook his head, gazing down to the ground. “I just… I just needed to do something. Anything. I just needed a goal to get to. I didn’t have anything to move forward on. No ambition or hope, no anything.”
Tyler pulled Ashtyn to standing and wrapped him in a hug. “I know,” he said quietly. “I know.”
After a few moments the two separated and wandered over to a nearby bridge, arms still linked. They leaned against the railing, the ornately twisted metal cool against their forearms.
“How can we just…” Tyler trailed off, bending to pick up a stone from the ground and turning it over in his fingers. “How can we just go about our life? Alex is– he’s gone and we all just have to do nothing and… and sit here.” He threw the stone to the water below and went silent, staring at the quickly disappearing ripples.
The spring sounds filled the quiet between them; the cheerful trills of birds and gentle hum of June beetles paying no heed to the bleakness invading the field around them. The gurgling of the stream below twisted up around them in the wind, teasing the echoes of splashes from the water’s surface.
“You’re right,” Ashtyn said, gazing out over the water. “We can’t just… we can’t just sit here like nothing’s happened and go on with our lives.” Ashtyn explained. “He’s been through so much pain. We have to do something for him. Honor his memory — I don’t know, something cliché like that.” He straightened up and brushed off the front of his shirt.
Tyler stood and turned to face Ashtyn. Tyler shrugged and hugged his arms close to his body. “I mean, yeah, but, how? Alex is dead, Ashtyn, we can’t just go and ask him–”
“Then we figure something out,” Ashtyn interrupted. “We- we make a memorial fund, donate to charity, fund the Trevor Project, I don’t know. But we’re gonna do something. We have to do something, okay?” Ashtyn held Tyler by the arms until he nodded, dropping his arms to his sides.
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “We’re gonna do something,” he smiled. “For Alex.”
Ashtyn let out a breath, eyes wet. “For Alex.”