I can attest to the fact that taking a walk through a cemetery can be a scary thing, especially if you’re alone.
It was 11:58 on a cold Sunday night in February of 2015. I was waiting until exactly midnight to enter the Garfield Cemetery. Some believe at exactly midnight, on the night of a full moon, the ghosts of the dead rise from their graves to walk the earth again. I thought to myself, it’s just my luck that tonight is a full moon.
I looked down at my watch. It had turned twelve o’clock, time to do the deed. As I opened my car door and got out, I asked myself, what the hell am I doing here? What draws me to these places? What is my infatuation with the dead when I myself am so alive? The wind blew hard and cut through me like a thousand knives of ice. The leaves rustled around my feet as if they had a mind of their own, and the wind sounded as if it carried voices with it, but the voices were muddled, hard to understand, like whispers.
The sign ahead was held up by two latches attached to the wooden frame of the entrance. The wood was old and rotted creaking with the wind. It seemed to be singing a horrific duet with the slamming sound of the sign. The wind carried it back and forth, up and down. The sign read, “Garfield Cemetery”. I walked through the entrance and heard the sound of my own footsteps, and prayed they were mine. The moment I crossed beneath the sign, it was as if I had run into Death. I felt chills run up and down my spine. I wanted to turn back, but couldn’t. It was as if the whispers of the wind were beckoning me to join them. The sky was so dark. It was a wet black oil. I didn’t want to look at it. I didn’t want to look at the full moon.
I crept inward into the heart of the cemetery. As I moved, I pulled out a flashlight that I had hidden in the bottom of my satchel. Graves were all around me. The further I walked the number of them increased. I hesitated to turn on my flashlight for fear of waking the dead. I was afraid of disturbing their peaceful slumber. I read their names as my eyes adjusted to the night: William Thaxton, Kenneth McFerren, Irene Ledegar, Jacob Patterson. I cried when I imagined who they must have been, and how sad and alone it must be in their boxes beneath the earth. I thought how they must need and long for the touch of a live hand. A live caress. My caress. I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.
Up ahead, a huge stone monument stood. I moved in closer to investigate. It was a tomb the size of a small house. I’d never seen such a grand and beautiful deathbed. What kind of a man or woman would deserve such a tribute to their life as this one? What could they have done? Who resided in this Gothic temple? I could just see the outline of the back of the tomb. The sky grew dim beyond the edifice. The face of the crypt was covered with dirt and twisting vines from neglect. Atop the tomb, I saw a beautiful broken crucifix. The cross leaned where it once stood, the only wound to the stone. I circled the walls and read the writing on the stone. Was that Latin? Certainly not. I squinted, but the letters moved. The script reflected back to my eyes as they would through a broken mirror. But that was impossible. Letters carved into stone can’t move.
A stone angel stood over the entrance to the tomb. I wanted to kiss it, to touch its eyelids. The intensity of its eyes and serene expression called me, beckoned me closer. It was insane! I couldn’t feel the wet lips of a statue. I couldn’t run my fingers through its hair, and yet it called me closer in that sweet whisper.
She wanted me to love her.
I felt lifted above the ground as I moved closer to her. The stone angel’s outstretched arms pled with me to enter them. Tears ran down my eyes as her fingertips touched my fingertips. The door to the tomb opened and she held me in her tight embrace. I asked her if she loved me, and I felt her whisper on my ear as gentle as the wind. She said, “Of course I love you. How gentle you are.”
And that is what I remember.