If I Die in Raleigh

Punks tend to wear all black anyway, so it’s almost easy for us to dress for funerals. Except most of us don’t own nice clothes and some of us don’t know what gendered costume we’re supposed to wear.

We did what we could.

At the gravesite, while Will laid waiting to be put in the ground, our friend Jesse from Severed Fingers played Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on guitar. All of us sang along, crying. The pastor — who didn’t know us, didn’t know the family, didn’t know Will — must have been confused. Not an hour earlier, he’d been trying his hardest to maintain the proper balance between speaking to us respectfully and patronizingly about God, and we weren’t having any of it. Yet there we were, earnestly singing Hallelujah.

Cohen’s version strikes at what’s true about God and Death and all those other words that may or may not deserve capital letters. That day, it was our atheist prayer. I don’t really care too much what the pastor thought of us.

One friend, face wet with tears and guitar in hand, got off the stool and joined the rest of us while another friend was lowered into the ground forever.

* * *

Earlier, at the funeral home, when the pastor started rattling on about God, some people interrupted him. Some people stormed out.

Was it polite to the family? No.

Was it what Will himself would have done? Probably.

I don’t know that what Will would have wanted is what matters, not at the end of it. I’m not sure that the dead have opinions. For my atheist/pagan/agnostic heart, the only thing that remains of the dead are the reverberations of their character that live on in the people who knew them or knew of them. What matters to me is what the people who love Will needed out of that funeral. Will was an atheist, as are most of his friends. His family are not.

Being on the older side of the punks in attendance, I worried the whole time. The funeral was for all of us. How do you make that happen? How do you meet everyone’s needs?

Maybe some conflicts aren’t conflicts. Maybe certain unreconcilable differences don’t need to be reconciled for us to get along. Grief is its own strange form of solidarity.

I’ve heard since, though, that his parents accepted it all, disruption included. That the funeral was perfect. That it was very much Will’s.

Maybe some conflicts aren’t conflicts. Maybe certain unreconcilable differences don’t need to be reconciled for us to get along. Grief is its own strange form of solidarity.

* * *

I knew William Joseph Mayol for a few years and lived with him for a few months. I didn’t, personally, get to see him in three dimensions. I only saw a few sides of him, not him at his full range. Which means, in my perspective, he got to be perfect. To me, he was an archetype. Maybe not one of the Jungian ones that goes back into our subconscious a thousand generations, but he was an archetype to me nonetheless.

Imagine a man who is always on the couch, enthroned in cans of cheap, lite beer, playing video games and watching TV at the same time. Give him an extensive Magic: the Gathering collection. Give him a penchant for trolling and a dry sense of humor.

Now take that same character you’re imagining, and make him perfect.

He trolled exclusively on the side of the oppressed against oppressors and was a tireless advocate for trans rights. He said snarky shit all the time, but even before I knew him well, I never felt like he was being cruel by it. He was the living proof that you can be an anxious, antisocial troll and still be a good person. He’s my evidence that other nerd boys need to step the fuck up and do better.

That’s the shit that’s easiest to praise him for.

The thing I loved him for — not just appreciated him for, but loved him for — was how he wanted you to watch TV with him. He’d watch anything with you. He was always on that couch — he died on that couch, at 27. Whatever time of day or night you wanted to watch TV, he’d hand you the remote and watch whatever garbage TV you wanted. Even if he’d seen it a million times, even if he hated it.

I wrote a book while living with Will. It would go on to be my first mainstream published book that is beginning my career, but at the time it was just kind of a crapshoot to spend my days writing it. Because I lived in a dirt cheap punk house in Raleigh North Carolina, I could afford to take that gamble. Every day for a couple of weeks, I came down from my room at 5pm and made some vegan mac and cheese and watched an episode of Jessica Jones with him.

Even when he was still alive and I figured one day we’d be old asshole anarchists together, I knew enough to value those evenings.

Time isn’t wasted, it isn’t spent. It passes, and however we pass it can be meaningful if we appreciate it.

I used to think that you only develop camaraderie in the crucible of social war, that you only experience magic during crisis or during extraordinary events or while off adventuring somewhere. I used to have a lot of bullshit romantic notions about life.

I used to think time spent on the couch consuming media was dead time.

It isn’t.

It’s just time. Time isn’t wasted, it isn’t spent. It passes, and however we pass it can be meaningful if we appreciate it.

Will helped teach me that.

I wish I’d known him longer, to see him pass through one stage of life to the next. I love watching my friends through all their phases, whether those changes bring us closer together or push us farther apart.

I’m really glad, selfishly glad, that I knew enough to appreciate my time with Will when he was alive. I do wish, though, that I’d known enough to have told him that I loved him.

* * *

My book comes out in a couple weeks, and Will died a couple months ago, and that doesn’t feel right. It isn’t right that some of us have a shot at growing old and some of us are in the ground.

There is no right or wrong in this world, I know that. All the same, it isn’t right.

* * *

He thought Smashing Pumpkins are a good band, though, so I guess no one’s perfect. Not even the dead.

Photo (of the grave site) by Maria

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2 thoughts on “If I Die in Raleigh”

  1. Magpie,

    Thanks. I have an old friend dying. She and I were Girl Scout leaders together. At my age (73), I will be seeing a lot of death of friends. Your comments were helpful, even though I am a Theist.

    Barbara Louise

  2. I didn’t know Will but this left me crying at my desk at my office, Thank you for sharing your love and sorrow with us.

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