We were very pretty that day, me, my beautiful brother and good looking sister. Porcelain skin smoothe as soup, crisply ironed shirts and dresses, hair coiffed and calm. My mother sat with us in the backseat and I imagine she felt proud of her three beautiful children all grown up and composed. We were silent. Gospel music was the only sound. A continuous, respectful loop of popular songs meant to keep us faithful. Everything was in place. All we needed to do was stay put and enjoy the long ride. There really wasn’t much to see: a bunch of stoplights, stretches of rich-green grass, miles of pavement. Sky offering occasional patches of sun. And gospel music to inspire and keep us company. We wanted daddy. Each of us. Mama wanted her husband, irascible and witty. My sister longed for her father, the man who used to say how pretty his oldest daughter was, how smart and poised. My brother craved the touch of this man who never hugged him enough, never came to his little league football games, never said I love you. I only wanted one more laugh with this gentle guy, his soft laugh, three deep wrinkles lining his forehead. Always praying. He was, ours. He was, kind. He was, funny. He held his love for us close to his chest while we bathed him in attention and affection running to the Bronx to immerse ourselves in this southern man with the smell of the city stamped to his hands. So, while Yolanda Adams sang and Kirk Franklin sang and John P. Key sang, we sat stiff in the back of the family car, afraid to speak. In front of us, riding slowly and with great grace, the black hearse carrying our father’s body, casketed, a puddle of flowers on top. No one knew what to say. There were too many words and we couldn’t risk breaking down or getting messy with grief. So we sat as the music played. A smile here, a grimace there, a sigh. A hand patting hair. Legs covered in stockings and crossed. Keeping things neat. The only music we know.
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