What I Learned When I Was 8
Here is what I learned when I was 8:
Funeral clothes don’t have to be black.
It was the 2nd grade and our teacher
politely shuffled the class to watch
a movie. We sat giggling
amongst ourselves wondering what
we did for this special surprise.
As the TV crackled on,
a tape played.
To my extreme torture,
it was Charlie Brown.
I hated Charlie Brown.
I hated him and
his little Peanut-headed concubines
with all the fire that I could hold in my tiny
it was an escape from math equations
and reading tests.
We all sat gawking at the television as
one of Charlie’s friends lay in
a hospital bed.
She was sick with something
that was sorta hard to pronounce. A word
we’d probably learn on a spelling test.
being the tiny asshole he is, remarks,
“Are you going to die?”
my memory is blacked out.
All I can remember is
one of our friends was sick.
She was sick for at least a year.
And then at 9
Her mother wanted the kids to wear
Black is sad clothes.
She wanted us to be happy
because her daughter
My parents didn’t let me go.
I was too young to go to a funeral.
to see people cry
to know about death.
My papa passed when I was 19.
We wore white.
I always thought it was linked to meanings of
rebirth or peace. But it was due to the fact it was
90 fucking degrees in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
90 Fucking degrees!
I’m not sure what he wore.
I was too afraid to look and
my parents didn’t mind me.
It was my first time.
First time seeing
people cry for a man that’s not
gonna be able to comfort them.
My grandpa Butch passed when I was 20.
It was the first summer of COVID
So we had to do everything
His casket was caustically wrapped
Nobody knew much about the virus except
they didn’t wanna get it
and we wore
Black people dressed
sitting in closed
in 100-degree weather.
All to watch a tribute video of
my grandpa Butch.
I wanted to ask
“Are you hot out here?”
‘Cause South Carolina has the kinda heat that
make you wanna fight God
and his angels.
There he was,
dressed to impress.
He looked so —
Get this suit offa me! And
Get this saran wrap
offa my casket! I’m
Hot! I’m tellin' ya’ll I’m Hot!”
I wanted to give him a cool glass
Make him perk up and say,
“Thanks, baby girl”
but he can’t.
I couldn’t look at him really.
I don't see how anyone can look at
somebody and say
“Despite him being gone and everything…
He sholl look good.”
everyone said you looked good.
I don't like to think much about
Especially not what somebody wears in them.
Charlie Brown didn’t hesitate to
pick out his friend’s funeral clothes before she
settled into her hospital gown.
I toss and turn at the idea of asking someone something
“Are you gonna die?” sounds like
“What color should I wear to mark the day
I won’t see you again?”
I don’t like that I can’t see them again.
I can’t decide if it is a phobia or
if I'm forever trapped between these stages
of anger and denial.
FAR FAR FAR from this day,
God be willing:
When I go,
don’t put me in clothes.
Don’t put me in no hot dress and don’t you
dare prop me up in no South Carolina.
Let us be as free as we’ll ever be.
Because no fabric or color
can summarize the lives we have
Cry and scream to your hearts’
Laugh and play as you can.
Let’s not huddle in hot cars.
Let’s not shield each other from
life’s harsh truth.
We don’t have to bring out Charlie
Brown’s square head ass to know
We are here
we are not.
the color I will request is
There’s no meaning to it.
No reason at all.
Funeral clothes don’t have to be
That’s what I learned when I was 8.
Edited by: Ava Pauline Emilione
Cover Photo Displays: Veronica Taylor