Roger and Helena had never been best friends or anything of the sorts. They had been the type of people that are kind to each other in high school and just say “Hello” and “Thank you” when it was needed. However, Helena had done something else that made her kind of special to Roger: she had been the only one to know he’s secret and had kept it for herself through the last four years of school. She had realized he was gay because Roger had been careless once speaking on his cell phone just after school and she had been the only one to hear him. They never spoke, they never agreed on anything but she never said a word and he was thankful for it.
Now, many years later, Helena was dead. Roger had known of her tragic fate also by mistake, by chance, when reading the newspaper online one morning. The world is so plague with bad things that happen like terrorism and wars and so on, that sometimes road accidents pass unnoticed. The news of her accident was just a very small article, a few lines, but her name was there clear as day and he remembered it. At first, he thought it had been some other woman called Helena too but it the evening news they put on her picture and he confirmed that it was her. Roger wasn’t devastated when he realized it but he felt very sorry for her family and friends. It was a very tragic way to go and he then recalled the fact she had been a good person where most people wouldn’t have been.
So, the following day, he decided to attend the wake as well as her funeral. Through the paper too he learned when the wake was going to take place and it was just after work hours in small mortuary not very far from his home. He tried to dress up as sober as he could, trying not to put on some colourful shoes or socks, which he loved, and stepped in the mortuary feeling very strange.
The reason for this was because he felt he had stepped in high school again. Many people from back then had come to pay their respects and many were reunited in small groups talking about her but also talking about what they have been doing in the last few years. Many of them were still friends, at least on Facebook, so they knew exactly what the others were up to even if they pretended they didn’t know. But Roger was the only one that had not kept any contact.
He had never had any real friends in school. His best friends had always been kids from his neighbourhood and friends he had made along the years. People at school were for him stupid and full of themselves, always trying to fake who they were and trying to know things that didn’t concern them. They were arrogant and very cynical and he just hated all of that so he never really tried to be friends with any of them. Not that they would have let him be a friend of theirs.
He crossed that hall when they were all chatting as if they were in a school reunion and entered the room were the body and the family probably were. The ambiance there was very different. The family was crying and very close to the casket, which was closed. Roger instantly remembered what he had read about the accident and understood exactly why the casket was closed. He felt a bit dizzy but then someone came and held his arm. He was about to scream but the didn’t do it because he saw Helena’s mother broke into tears and also because he realized the person who had done that was someone he remembered from back then. It was a girl called Linda and she had always had a crush of him.
Roger greeted her and she looked at him with those big annoying eyes of hers and talked in a sweetened voice that was just sickening. It was as if she was still trying to get him after all these years and it was just annoying. So, in a moment of genius, he told her he wanted to give his condolences to the family, which was effective: Linda let him go and he was able to walk towards the mother, who was still crying.
Approaching someone that is such a state is always the worst but he had no choice as Linda was looking at him from the other side of the room. He followed an older woman who also came to pay her respects and the mother broke into tears and held her, even when they didn’t really seem to know each other that well. Apparently the poor woman was so socked by her daughter’s death that any person was a good person to cry with or on. Roger helped she didn’t do that to him, because he really didn’t liked to be touched by strangers but when she did he didn’t really mind. After all, she was a mother who had lost a child. And that’s something we can all agree is heartbreaking.
He shook the father’s hand too and greeted Helena’s brothers, two big guys who he remembered from the rugby team back in high school. He instantly blushed when looking at the older one, whose name was Finn. Roger had had a big crush on Finn when he was about sixteen years old and he remembered going to rugby games only to watch him play and, more importantly, look at his butt. So it was really strange when, after shaking hands, Finn winked at him. For a moment, he thought that hadn’t happened. But it had.
The former classmate stood there, by the casket, for several minutes. He wasn’t a religious person but he wanted Helena to know he was thankful for her being the person she was, for not telling anyone about his secret as he wouldn’t have been ready at that moment to face people about his sexuality. These days, however, he didn’t really mind.
When he saw Linda coming to him, he decided to be honest so he asked her if they could go to the hall. She grabbed by he arm, again, and went along with what he said. Roger forced a conversation about life and what they had been up to. He wasn’t interested at all in Linda’s life but just wanted to be clear and get rid of her arm that felt more like a very annoying claw hanging off him. She talked about some boring job in engineering and he just nodded and when they were in the middle of the people outside he asked her about his relationships. Silly as she was, she giggled and said she had had some boyfriends but that she was available at the moment. And then she giggled again and put her hand on his shoulder.
His moment had come and he was so happy to do this. It was like going back to high school, back then, and then just flip them off, as he would have liked to do. So he smiled and said the truth, which was the best way to discourage anyone, he said that it was a funny story because Helena had been the only one in high school to know he was a gay man. And that now, as a married man, he looked back at school as something so far away in his memory that he just smiled when he seldom thought about it.
Linda was obviously shocked as she removed her hand and looked as if some horrible news had been announced via speaker. It was really like being back in high school and he enjoyed it thoroughly. What he had not realized was that people were not talking as loud as he did so every single person had heard what he had said. That was why the room had gone silent and then he looked at all the stupid faces around him and just smiled and couldn’t help laughing. When he did, no one laughed along but the sound miraculously returned to the hall.
He kissed Linda on the cheek and told her he hoped she had a nice life. Then he marched out and he felt, very accurately, that many eyes were fixated on him. But he didn’t care at all. He decided to keep walking until he was outside and there he went to the nearest store and bought a pack of cigarettes. The storeowner lit up the first one for him and he went out to smoke in peace, happy about he had done, amused by the whole sad event.
Then someone greeted him and he saw the large figure of Finn coming closer. They shook hands again and Finn said he had no idea he smoked and Roger said he didn’t but he had felt like it a few minutes ago. Finn laughed and then asked if it was true that he was gay and was married. Now it was Roger who smiled and nodded. Finn told him he had always known and not because of Helena but because he had noticed Roger looking at him often around school. And he said it was funny because he had always liked him too.
It was an awkward moment but Finn proceeded to tell Roger he was about to get married to and he just wanted to invite him, that’s why he had come after him. Roger smiled again and promised to go with Jake, his husband. Then they started chatting about life, likes and so on. And when the conversation finished and he went home to Jake, Roger realized he had made a new friend, which was a very odd thing to get on a wake. He wondered if something weirder would happen at the funeral.