[Originally written on this date in 2006]
The late morning was already warm when I rolled out of bed, but of course that was not going to stop me from dressing in black from head to toe, as respectfully as possible with the limited wardrobe I have. After all, it was important to be comfortable but still myself, as I know that is what Jon would have wanted. Makeup was kept minimal, as most of it was likely going to wind up running down my cheeks. Styled my hair well enough that it was not a complete mess and topped it off with a veiled hat. Wore a simple black skirt, button down short-sleeved blouse and polished up a pair of black leather pumps. Satisfied with the end result, I packed a few items into my purse and walked a couple of blocks to where I had been informed someone would be along to pick me up.
A short while later, a white 1954 Cadillac pulled up to the corner where I waited, and out stepped a rather imposing figure dressed in what can only be described as a hobo clown suit. The years had been long but his face was still familiar and I was more than relieved to see the only other surviving member of Outlaw Cirkus. With a sad smile he embraced me for a moment, a strong cologne coming off his soft skin, then opened the door for me to get in. It was the two of us in the back seat with a third party behind the wheel and we were off.
Was glad the air-conditioning in the vehicle was on, as it provided the right amount of comfort for what would be a long drive. Not certain if conversation would be appropriate, I distracted myself by gazing out the window and watched Philly give way to Jersey as we crossed the border. The silence was finally broken, though Augustine did not speak to me directly – I feel it is safe to use his name since there is no longer a threat to what is left of our Family. He knew Jon as well as I did, possibly even on a deeper level since they had known each other for several years before I came along. At least I was slowly relaxing as we talked softly about what we had been doing to pass the time as the Cadillac cruised through the Garden State.
When we finally drew close to the ocean, the air was shut off and the windows were rolled down, inviting a salty aroma into the car along with a cooling breeze. It had been far too long since I had last laid my sights upon the Shore, and while I would have liked to paid a visit under different circumstances, just being there again put me at ease. We rolled along for a while longer, and in the distance was a collection of cars that were gathered for the service. The destination was a remote section of beach, far away from the hordes of Memorial Day weekend travelers that had migrated to the Shore. Thus the reason the location was chosen, and while not at liberty to disclose that information, it was much farther South than I have ever been in Jersey, giving those who had gathered to honor the departed the ability to do so in privacy.
My stomach bubbled with nervousness when the car stopped, but Augustine assured me that he was there to escort me to the service, providing comfort if I happened to need any. It should be noted here that he had filled the role of father figure to me during the Outlaw Cirkus years, and even though it had been far too long since we last saw each other, I felt entirely safe with him.
He linked his arm with mine when we exited the car and made our way to the beach. Those that had assembled were a motley crew of individuals; punks, skins, greasers, crusties – the labels don’t really matter since we were all there for the same reason. They had come from cities across the country; people who may have had differences that were able to set those aside for one day. While I had been concerned about feeling out-of-place among them, having a warm hand in mine reminded me I was not alone.
Jon’s prized Chevy Nova was the centerpiece of the ceremony, covered with candles and flowers with the urn sitting up on its roof, and my heart sank at that moment. Granted it was far better than having to see him lying in a box, on account that would have surely caused me much greater pain. That doesn’t mean knowing he rested inside the simple bronze vessel didn’t have an effect on me, and the same can be said about the collection of photos that were taped to the windows. That is what really got the tears flowing,but I wanted to get up and look at them a. How happy Jon was, pictured with that car, the Mercury and various groups of people. There were a couple of us which were taken at a party he had a few years back, as well as some candid shots of random drunken and drug-induced debauchery. Becoming a bit overwhelmed, I found myself in Augustine’s arms as he assisted me in taking a seat, holding on to me as we settled into the white plastic chairs.
There was no priest or minister or anyone of that sort to conduct the ceremony, as Jon was not a religious man. Instead, the only other Carny present stepped up to get the whole thing under way, thanking everyone who had come to pay their respects. Augustine gave a moving speech about what it meant to lose such a great man and was visually distraught [as we all were] though able to keep his composure. Being the youngest present was still a little weird, but I put that out of my mind when called upon to say a few words. Standing in front of all those people did not make me nervous, as they looked upon me with reverence. Took my time reading the eulogy [a slightly modified version of what I wrote a few days ago], slowly going from word to word so they were clearly pronounced despite the tears that constantly interrupted me. Caught a few of the most stone-faced men wiping salty discharge from their own eyes.
One by one, the mourners stood in front of his Chevy to say a few words; some chose to share their most memorable moment, and others expressed their grief in losing such a passionate individual. We all sat there in silence for a long time after that, watching the colors change in the sky as the sun set behind us in a brilliant show of orange, yellow, pink and purple, reflecting on the ocean in a dancing electric pattern as the waves crashed on the beach.
Augustine carefully lifted up the urn, instructing us to collect the candles, flowers and photos to follow him down to the sea. He resumed the role of my escort, and together we led the procession. Comforting words were whispered, an understanding of just how much Jon loved me; that now he would be able to always watch over me and protect me; that while I lost a very dear friend, I had gained a guardian angel, and that made me smile a little. Once we reached the ocean, he recited words that were respectfully reserved for those who truly were with it until the end.
Standing on giant rocks that disappeared into the ocean, the lid was removed from the urn and the wind picked up at that moment, carrying Jon’s ashes out into the churning sea along with the flowers we had thrown. It is something that has happened in the past when the departed are laid to rest, and while I am not religiously devout myself, I do believe in that his soul was free to find its final reward. We stood there and waited for the candles to burn out before heading back to the Cadillac.
Then it was onward to the…well, I’m not really sure what to call the post-service gathering other than just that. Augustine was host to the feast of assorted foods and beer, but he remained by my side the entire time. We ate and drank and shared fond memories, celebrating Jon’s life as he would want us to. They came to me and offered their condolences, and while I had no idea who any of them were, they all called me by name. I was a bit flattered to have them sit down and tell me how much they heard about me; information I was already aware of, but it felt good to know they trusted his judgment to treat me as a friend despite being strangers. In fact, when I gazed around the room, I saw that everyone was sitting together. The scene was by far a reflection of the ability of one man to unite them despite whatever differences may have separated them in their usual walk of life.
The numbers dwindled as the night progressed, and after a while only a handful of us remained, still knocking back a few brews and continuing to exchange stories. They did a lot more talking than I did, but that was fine with me as I felt I had said enough. Besides, I enjoyed hearing the way they talked about him, and it should be clear by now that this man had touched many lives.
We laid on the floor with the windows open, inviting the cool ocean breeze inside while we watched some movies and eventually passed out.
Breakfast was ready and waiting when we woke up, sitting together as one Family and just shooting the shit. Wanted to stay there, but knew that wasn’t a possibility, what with the moving and everything I had to take care of. Exchanged good-byes and was brought back to Philly a few hours ago, though while thanking Augustine he took me by surprise and said if I ever needed anything that he would do his best to provide. Though I may not have mentioned him as much as Jon, he certainly has had a significant role in my life but always with the understanding he would not always be present. At that moment, lost in the fabric of his plaid shirt, I could think of several things I wanted to ask for and instead walked away with the comfort of knowing I still had someone there for me.
Now I set out on that long road to healing, though I have the feeling it is going to be a long and treacherous one.