i pull into the parking lot and, while i feel there is something very wrong about using a cellphone in such a place, i call my parents to see where they are.
“three minutes away,” dad says, “have you already gone inside?”
“no,” i say.
“because i’m scared.”
i know i will have to wander through the big white doors, weave through the crowd of unfamiliar filipino faces, find tita angie, kiss her cheek and smile weakly, and i don’t want to do it alone.
he looks so peaceful, they say. his face looks beautiful. he looks like he’s sleeping. but he’s not, i think. my mom and dad go in the viewing room to pay their respects while i wait outside, sitting in the velvet armchair, fidgeting with my purse. i don’t like this part.
i watch the minutes on the clock and after thirty minutes — i promised my mom i would stop by for a half hour — i jump up and say i have to go. it’s not that i can’t stay longer; i just don’t know if i can.
my mom walks me over to tita angie to say goodbye. i kiss her cheek again and run my hand over her back, like it’s the right thing to do. “did you say goodbye to uncle tony?” my mom asks. “it’s okay. see? he just looks like he’s sleeping.” and i am so mad she does this, because now i have to look at him. now i have to see his face. i don’t take a step forward. i just turn my head and get a glimpse, but it’s enough and i get a lump in my throat and kiss my mom quickly and walk briskly to my car. i sit there for a few minutes before i can turn on the engine and drive away.