Someone said that the saddest thing about the city was the impossibility of meeting everyone, one at a time: To run with them, meet their family, talk to them about what they were like at sixteen, if they preferred Coke or blueberry Crush. Gravediggers don’t share this problem: Get to know strangers pretty well, depending if you believe what people choose to say tells us who they are. They hear old stories, secrets hiding until the accident oh nothing matters anymore she wasn’t my sister- we’re cousins from Delaware.
Hugo and I shared years of intense passion that, um, well it seems quite clear he did not have the opportunity to share with you, from what I have heard so far.
Sinead told me not to bring this up and everything, but I don’t see who else will, you know: She owed me forty dollars, so if someone could settle that with me, that would be great, you know, and I think we could really put this to rest.
The man was a beast in the sack. And he cheated in that race.
Ah- jokes on death- how dare you!- sure, but we’re talking about gravediggers here, who’ve said worse over ham sandwiches and chips. Mr. Zenfran had said a few, but he was old school and didn’t believe in the touchy talk around death, something that happened to us all. It was like pretending nothing was happening in the bathroom, he said, when you heard the water running.
Zenfran was old sKool with a K, and dug quite the hole. I dig quite a hole, he said, in his interview. Funny, they said. Don’t worry: We have new ditch diggers. Wasn’t until staff happened to drive by that he was seen, digging with a spade. The young digger almost crunched into the stone wall.
What are you doing?
What does it look like?
You know you can use the machine, right?
You’re gonna kill your back doing that
I’ve been digging these since you were just an idea in your daddy’s special area
Jesus John, you’re disgusting
I’m fine. I’ll see you tomorrow
I’ll know what to tell the boys when you call in sick.
Jonathan said a lot of things. Been shoveling since before cars had wheels. No, not a mortician: I’m a gravedigger: I dig graves. These legs were made to work. Everything is not the same as it once was. Truth was he’d been digging since cell phones could be used as weapons, and had in fact dug his first grave for a cell-phone-homicide. Liked to tell the new guys he started working since before the internet. They said I remember pre-Facebook.
Don’t have the same appreciation that we have, when were taught to, when I was your age.
It’s a hole, John.
A hole? This hole is where you are going to spend eternity- can you even fathom that?
That’s exactly it: No appreciation for words, anymore. All I hear is Facetime. All I hear is tweets.
You mean hashtags.
Same wrenches in the cogs to me. I remember a time when hash was something you smoked before running a couple laps and bursting into class in just enough time to belt out the anthem like you were Tom fucking Cochrane.
Or Louis Armstrong.
I’m not that old.
He wasn’t that old. He was old enough to romanticize the past, sure, reorganize his own stories to gloss over the ugly. You were broke. She dated your brother before you. You were beaten by a dealer after that oh most amazing performance of all time ever. She dated your sister after you. He knew that because machines worked faster you got to eat your dinner in the sunlight and did not mind walking home in the sunset. He couldn’t put faith into a machine that a profit-oriented factory had pieced together. Everything wasn’t the same as it once was. They didn’t get it.
They were too busy taking dramatic selfies beside graves to get it. Too busy with little things to understand big ideas. Too young to understand the value of working for days on details: Didn’t understand perfection. Perfection linked your mind to certain things, like hard work, but sometimes your mind snapped the chain and slunk around the zoo. He thought about the first time he stood beside a grave, before he was in the industry. He often thought about it. He thought about the importance of feeling in touch with your spade. Edges you could scrape with a ruler. Four by eight by six. He often thought about it. It didn’t matter that you didn’t know them.*
words by Liam Lachance
colour by Donghyun Lim