Thursday, January 1, 2009

So I'm lying on a couch in a back room at the local roller skating rink, listening to piped-in Barry White and chewing on a wedge of lime, when all of a sudden it hits me that this is no ordinary social gathering. I look down at the ice cubes in my red plastic cup and then up at the ceiling, which is covered in streamers and balloons, and think, holy shit, this is a funeral.

I admit that, between the couples skating in tandem beneath a giant disco ball, the open caipirinha bar, the lolling on couches in darkened corners, and the general feeling of merriment, it had kind of slipped my mind that I was at a funeral. That I was at Ronia's funeral. Of course, she was always a little odd--some might say she was downright weird--so an unusual funeral was kind of to be expected, but even I was taken aback when the "minister" turned out to be a contortionist who flowed seamlessly from the Pretzel to the Strudel to the Baba au Rum while chanting these three lines over and over:

"God is a clown!"
"Floss in the morning, after plaque has settled!"
"Cell phones equal death!"

It was somewhat unsettling, especially since he was naked, and later, when I noticed him standing next to me at the bar, I asked him as politely as I could about the choice of ceremony. He said Ronia had simply requested that it be entertaining and thought-provoking; that was all she gave in terms of guidelines. When I gingerly asked why he had been selected as officiant, he said it was because she used to wax his thighs and he therefore owed her a favor.

I didn't want to seem rude, like I was questioning the details of Ronia's funeral, but a nagging question remained.

"Um, I was just wondering--do you know where Ronia's body is? I think some people here were expecting to see it, like, in a casket or something."

The contortionist/minister took a sip of his drink, reached down to scratch himself in a place I purposely did not form a mental picture of, and laughed.

"Oh yes! Her body. It's in my trunk."

"Your trunk?!"

"Yeah--well, not her real body. What she referred to as 'her body'--her body of work, her writing. I don't know what happened to her real body. I heard she just wandered off into the mountains."

He leaned forward abruptly, the bare skin of his left shoulder just beneath my nose.

"WAIT A MINUTE!" he yelled, jabbing at the name tag stuck to my shirt, "YOU'RE ISABEL!"

"Um--yes," I said, glancing around us, thinking it might be good to locate help, in the form of a corkscrew or a roller skate, if he got any closer.

"I've been looking for you!" To my relief, he stepped back, set his empty cup on the bar, and crossed his arms. "Ronia told me to give you 'her body'--her body of work, her writing, blah blah. Apparently she was working on some project and wanted you to take it over. It was her gift, she said, though"--he chuckled and winked--"judging by the quality of some of the stuff I read, I'm not sure what a gift it was."

Ten hours later, I had drunk half my body weight in cachaca, sampled two or three (or was it six?) party favors, and, amazingly, shot the duck for twelve songs straight, until I got a permanent cramp in my outstretched leg and had to lie down on a couch.

And that's how I ended up on that couch, gazing at bright-colored balloons tangled in bright-colored streamers, reflecting on the fact that Ronia's final shebang was a lot more like a New Year's Eve party than a funeral, with everyone dancing and laughing and having fun. Everyone, it seemed, was celebrating life and happiness, the start of new chapters and the promise of fresh tomorrows, the open and limitless future that stretched out, friendly and beckoning, in front of each of us. I closed my eyes and pictured Ronia walking down a long dirt road lined with green grass; the grass waved and whispered beneath the blue sky and in the distance tall mountains rose gently, their dark flanks folded over and around a lifetime of stories.


uncleremus said...

it certainly sounds as if ronia got the "perfect" send-off!!!!!

one can only wonder "what happens next"?????

Noopette said...

ya! blog is back! i was so sad and worried that i would never hear from the land of ronia/twinkle/isabel again, hurray for blogging

one happy sister

packofchicklets said...

well, if you shoot the duck for that long, what do you expect????

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