The partially tied, empty boots are at the bottom of the glass case. Above them a headless dummy wears jeans below and layers up top; a white t-shirt, a hoodie, a jacket with ripped cuffs. A thick metal chain with dog tags hangs down to complete the look.
Depending on your viewpoint, it’s a costume, or a uniform, or an outfit, or just clothes. But like the boots, they’re empty now. The man who wore them belongs to the past, not the present.
It feels like part of my past is in that case.
Hazy alcohol and pot-fueled nights of decades past, dried up and pinned like a bug. The mosh pits, the crowd surfing, the parties with trampolines and pumpkins and machetes. Things I can’t and wouldn’t do today. Everything’s so far away it’s like looking through the telescope of time backwards.
A screen bigger than a building reflects pictures of the past. Young and old. Quiet and loud. Intimate and public goods. The young ones get me about the throat. Was I once that young too? Did I share the smile of youth? Was I that hungry?
The concert video starts. It’s slickly produced and corporate branded throughout. Am I here to mourn or am I here as part of a marketing campaign? I can’t tell. The music as always moves me and the crowd around me cheers and claps along with the recorded crowd when songs end. It’s intercut with interviews of band members. We watch and listen.
More songs. A woman next to me sings along, unrestrained and with joy, and I wish I had her voice and felt what she was feeling. I feel empty. A dude next to me talks to his friend too much. It’s annoying. I move away. The band plays on. The crowd cheers.
I’m restless. What did I expect? I expected more, but I don’t know what. I realize a dead man owes me nothing, nor does his family or his band mates. I owe them. Is being here enough? I don’t know.
I want to sign the condolence book, but what would I say? Thank you for sharing him? I’m sorry for your loss? I’ll miss him forever? He died six weeks after my mom and I know a part of your grief? Why did it have to be May 18, now entwined in my head with Mt. St. Helens and visiting the courthouse to file probate on my mom’s estate ? He makes me think of friends I’m no longer friends with and the good times we had? My handwriting sucks anyway and I’m not sure I can bear to read other people’s grief.
The bathroom is playing hip-hop and it’s jarring. It sounds good, but feels out of place.
I go back to the video and listen to another song and I feel lonely. I go to leave and on my way out I see the VIP party in the bar. It’s the rest of the band and friends and family, maybe twenty people. I hear some laughter as I descend the stairs.
I exit to a light rain. It’s chilly out. The titanium panels glisten in the streetlights. On my walk back to my car I see a rat dart towards the Armory. The fountain is fountaining and I think of my kids in the summer, drenched and happy as they dodge sprays. Vendors are packing up from BrickCon, loading their unsold wares into a minivan.
Encased in my own steel and glass case, I drive home, my boots full.
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