“Only a fool needs proof of the afterlife,” he said.
“That’s a bit dismissive,” I responded, grimacing.
He gave me his signature look, that but-my-mother-taught-me-to-be-nice-to-women look. I’d rather he just be rude. Say what he meant, meant what he said. I imagined him dead just then, and I didn’t feel guilty for it, either:
The black suit, pale pinstripes. The purple tie with one magenta flower—his favorite. The purple in the tie matching the circles under his eyes, not from death, but from the allergies that plagued him while he lived. The magenta matching the fake blush upon his cheeks, as if he’d shown up late to his own funeral, flushed and embarrassed, he who had never been late. A high school marching band director, who made all new students memorize this mantra: “Early is on time, and on time is late.” Behind his back, they snickered and said, “And late is early for the next practice.”
He made them do laps around the football field, extra crunches to empower their diaphragms. “Breathe from your belly, not your chest!” A girl breathed so deeply she popped all her buttons. He applauded her and I laughed, but that was back when I used to go watch band practice merely for my own pleasure, for the way in which he corralled them into snakes and squares and squiggles across the green field, its turf of artificial grass fluffed anew each night.
As his wife of forty years, as the mother of his children, I’d write and deliver the eulogy. A high school literature teacher who had once, quite obscurely, self-published an unread book, I’d consider myself the right professional person for the task, despite our long personal history:
My friends, our friends, thank you for coming today. As you already well know, Manny, my husband and fellow teacher, was a great man, liked and revered by colleagues and students. He taught for forty years, as long as we had been married. In fact, we graduated from college and began our teaching careers together. Later, we began our family, many of whom now sit in the front row. Our children and grandchildren, all enriched by Manny’s wisdom and guidance.
His only mistake was guiding me, someone quite his equal but whom he treated as an inferior. Now that he’s dead, lord rest his soul, I can tell you—Manny was a mansplainer.
At this point, the men in the church would grunt or growl, while the women would nod and increase the speed of their paper fans. Manny would be vehemently disagreeing with me from his fiery fool’s pit, while I would be basking in the glow of his afterlife.