If we were doing sixty the train was probably doing fifty-five. The highway was parallel to the tracks but we were gaining speed because we needed to reach the curve up ahead to cross to the other side before the long train arrived at the crossing. It seemed like we were going to beat it. We were getting closer. At that point, we had a better chance if I accelerated than if I’d try to use the brakes or chicken out. I pushed the pedal, but the engine took a second to receive the gas. That second could be critical.
My brother Ralph was always daring me to do stuff like that and I was stupid enough to listen to him. On the other hand, Anthony was always eager for a chance to reach another adrenaline high. Their screams and cheers increased as if trying to neutralize the infernal engine noise. But nothing could eliminate the extremely loud train whistle.
We were just three teens trying to have some fun. I was the youngest at sixteen.
I was sleeping on the couch when I heard someone knocking at the door. I didn’t want to get up, but whoever was at the door was annoyingly persistent. I managed to force myself from the couch. When I opened nobody was on the other side. I was pissed but happy at the same time because I could go back to sleep. The moment I sat down they knocked again. This time I hurried to the door but again, nobody was there. Then, I stood alert and ready to jump and catch the funny guy who was interrupting my dreams. Even if it was one of my brothers, I would kick his sorry ass.
That’s when I noticed they were knocking on another door. The closet door in front of the couch across the room. What the hell?
I wasn’t mad anymore. That was a cool joke after all. I bet it was my younger brother Anthony. Ralph wasn’t so inventive as to pull such a smart prank. But I still wanted to kick somebody’s ass.
I was smiling when I opened the closet door, but nobody was there either. What the hell? I clearly heard someone knocking from the inside. How could they do that? Then I noticed a note taped to the shelf. It said, “You need to go to the cemetery. We’ll meet you there.” it was signed by Ralph and Anthony.
My brothers and I had always been close. We rarely spent an entire day apart.
At school, bullies were never welcome in our presence, and all the students knew it. We were always chasing bad kids. But now that I think about it, we were probably the bullies.
My brothers knew how much I loved cemeteries. When we were kids, I begged them to join me to the cemetery every year on the Day of the Dead, even though we didn’t have anyone to visit. The first time we smoked weed, we were there. I remember it was a foggy night and just before midnight Ralph said, “Shh, did you guys hear that?” We turned around and a second later we fled like mad ghosts, laughing hysterically.
When Grandma died, at the end of the funeral ceremony Anthony secretly gave Ralph and me a thumbs-up sign. We knew what he meant, from then on we would have a valid excuse to go to the cemetery. We could now visit Grandma more often than when she was alive.
It was almost dark when I arrived at the cemetery. We always liked the mausoleum with the black marble surface. It had four thick Roman columns and a statue of a child angel. I went straight to that tomb, but they weren’t there. I kept looking for them until I found two mounds of fresh dirt, obviously belonging to two recent arrivals. My brothers were there, but they looked transparent and foggy. That’s when I remembered what had happened. We didn’t make it to the other side of the railroad crossing.
The shock and pain had been so great, it blocked my memory and erased the reality of the accident.
At least temporarily.
“I miss you brother,” Anthony said to me right away. “We were supposed to be together all our lives. We said we’ll never be apart. We even made a pact remember? We said, ‘we’ll kill the first one who dies’. But now, we can’t be with you anymore. Hey, but you can come with us. You have to brother, we can’t leave without you.”
Ralph was sobbing softly. “We didn’t make it bro. Well, you did, but not us. We don’t know what’s going on, but I think we’ll soon have to leave this place. I’m sure we’re not in limbo, not even in purgatory.”
“What’s the solution, how can I join you, do I have to commit . . . ?” I replied, but I had to stop before I pronounced that ominous word.
I knew my life would be miserable without them. I also knew that if I miss this chance I would regret it for the rest of my life.
“I think we should dig another hole for you, next to our graves. Then, you can lie down at the bottom while we fill it back,” said Anthony. Ralph got on his knees and started digging with both hands. Soon, finding no better solution, we were all on our knees digging the soft dirt.
I wasn’t so sure that was a bright idea, but I didn’t complain because I felt responsible for their deaths, and I knew I couldn’t continue living with so much guilt.
As we kept digging, Ralph started to tell a story.
“I had been waiting for that moment for a long time. I have had that condom for at least three weeks. When she finally said yes, I felt so lucky. Most of my friends had done it months before I did. I was about to lose my virginity, and I had never been so nervous in my life. She didn’t want me to see her naked, so the room was completely dark. When I was trying to put the condom on, I dropped it and I couldn’t find it. I looked for it in the dark, under the bed and all around. When I started to panic, I noticed I had it on one of my fingers.”
All three of us laughed until we had tears in our eyes, even though we had heard that story many times before.
Then, Anthony told a story I had never heard before.
“When I saw that heart pendant at the mall, I knew that was the perfect gift for Mom. I took Dad’s wristwatch the day before Mother’s Day and sold it to buy Mom’s pendant. I remember the following night I couldn’t sleep at all, thinking about what to steal to buy Dad’s watch back.”
Just before I began my tale, the silhouette of a man appeared. He had a flashlight in one hand and a shovel in the other. He said, “What the hell are you doing? You grave robbers, sons of bitches!”
Not even a second had passed when I felt the shovel hitting the side of my head. I fell on my back semiconscious, but I could see the gravedigger trying to hit my brothers too. Swinging the shovel left and right in vain and saying, “What the hell?” Until he realized that my brothers were the spirits of the two young men he had recently buried. And he ran away faster than the train that killed my brothers.
The following day there were three mounds of fresh dirt next to each other.
But we weren’t there anymore.
Visalia, CA. Nov-14-2012