Five by Five

yes, you can trace my lost of faith back to when my mother died but it has more to do with her burial than anything else.

in guayaquil, we bury the dead in above ground open air mausoleums. i dont know the reasoning behind this. i believe they do the same in new orleans because caskets, last breaths, marsh land and rain lead to horror stories for children and groundskeepers alike. like most things third world, chances are it has to do with economics.

the rich get family or even single structures where the inheritors get to visit them shielded from the heavy noon sun and indigenous eyes. most of my family gets the outdoor treatment. its a very basic structure; three levels of alabaster cement, each level houses four by twenty rows of mini-headstones.

my mother is on the top level by the northeast corner in one of the middle rows. a perfect spot really. you dont have to sit on the floor or hunch extensively to speak to her. you dont have to tippy toe or strain your neck as if looking for in the heavens. shes right in front of you, you can speak with her just as if she was still here.

the headstones are another measure of class or the desire to elevate up the ladder after the fact. barebones means just a simple square with the basic info. highend means marble and a photo etching with plastic flowers, the presence of a saint with votives to hold candles all kept safe behind mylar and a lock. the mylar enclosure is pretty important since anything left at the end of the day can be potentially sold again the next morning.

the view from mami’s resting place totally blocks out the city. the potential for earthquakes keeps the ecuadorian skyline grounded so i don’t see any towers in the horizon. to the left i see more mausoleums, a figure of christ on the mountain top and tin solares grouped together on the slope. on the right is the oldest part of the cemetery, the psychiatric hospital that looks more like a route 66 econo lodge and behind me are low sloping hills that almost make me believe we aren’t in the city except for the roar of the highway less than a hundred yards away.

most days, the highway isn’t what grabs my attention as much as the roar of bulldozers cutting into the earth making room for more mausoleums. my grandma has always lived a mile from the cemetery and i was always fascinated by both the messiah watching over the shantytown and the never ending construction wondering what will run out first– people passing away or the mountain. raised as a city boy, i always thought we would run out of earth first.

things change as i am leaving the cemetery, the closer you get to the exit gates the narrower the walls become and, as such, the dates on the headstones shorten. you pass from adults to teens to kids and finally lives measured by days and hours. all the times i would come to the cemetery, i would be so wrapped in thoughts of my mother that i barely noticed this pattern going in but always was caught off guard on the way out.

so as my tenth grade religion teacher reviews the sacraments in a basement thats been remade as a class room, i think back on the graves in cement right by the sound of passing cars and question why some of them will never see a catholic heaven because sister says they all carry original sin– a burden that excludes them from the love of the lord. they say that all these lost souls find their way to limbo where they’ll remain till the next messiah. which sounds like some bullshit to me.

i must have asked at least three times in the hope that there was some kind of out clause sister was overlooking but no go. so right then, right there, i decided catholicism was bullshit. a divorce 11 years in the making, as even at 5 i was testing the powers that be by openly cursing in church.

i still follow the rituals for what they are, mnemonic movements designed to bring us to supplication, confession and (hopefully) some redemption. church isnt the only place i can find god though i know my mother prefers the gothic walls over the rumble of excavation.

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