Wakes, in their most common form, are indigenous to Gaelic peoples (although most usually associated with the Irish; Friend 2001) and were brought to America by Irish and Scottish immigrants (Stephenson 1985).
Bert Hayslip Jr, Kenneth W Sewell, Russell B Riddle. Handbook of Death and Dying. Volume 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2003.
I still tug at the roots on my scalp. If I sit too long in one place the floor and my chest and the tops of my shoes get covered in hair that I’ve pulled out from this awful habit that people call a nervous tic - the phrase doesn’t sit right with me, nerves don’t seem to trigger it. I should just tape up the tips of my fingers.
Near where I grew up there’s a reservoir which until I’d moved away I had always thought of as a swamp. I don’t think I was ever told otherwise. Old men fish there, some with their children, standing on the side of one-lane roads in rubber waders and sunglasses holding their reels and watching for cruisers or just civilians who might veer too far to one side of the road. License? I’m sorry officer, I thought this was America. The sort of men who laugh with a soft ‘w’ at the end of each breath.
When the sun sets it does so early, behind a wall of grey barked growth and pillars of bled animals strung up between trees with No Trespassing signs posted to them. Everything stays quiet. This is how families are fed. Piety manifests in a puddle below a slit in the skin of a leg, the tearing sound that reveals a white, milky skein giving way to what either means escape or sustenance. The purpose of your blood is to clot. Everyone stays quiet.
At night I would climb the gas tank and the gutters, scraping my arms on the shingles and staring up at the stars between skeletal, leafless branches. I would listen to music on a CD player that would sometimes fall from the pocket in my sweatshirt. Retrieval, restart. On the roof I would imagine tumbling from the top of the house in a ball, rolling up into a pile of broken pieces of spine on the ground with the back of my neck resting on one of the rocks comprising the wall between my parent’s property and the neighbor’s. Accidental always.
It’s never been easy sleeping.
There came a time after the funeral where the only thing I had of my grandfather’s was a message on an old phone. I would punch in a four-digit pin and listen to his voice when I got lonely or got to thinking too much or wanted to remember how he could lift the roof off a building with an old song, but when we switched providers and the number was deactivated I lost the option to hear him say he was trying to return my call or that he was thinking about me. So much for rituals.