I hear a car door close nearby and I look up to see a man step out of his car, who is greeted by another man with a snapping ‘bro’ handshake, who says, “lente oscuro, mariguano seguro.” This disrupts my moment of silence because I don’t laugh but find it cognitively humorous. I see a multitude of people approaching to visit their loved ones at the cemetery for Día De Los Muertos where I had arrived minutes earlier. One quick look around and it is hard not to notice most of the grave stones with Spanish surnames. Are we the only people that die around here? There are many things that can explain that but I decide not to pursue that train of thought. Who knows.
What is noticibly observable are the types of visitation rituals, some come with full picnic gear, and supplies; water coolers filled with burritos, juice drinks, sodas, and other snacks, fold-out chairs and E-Z up canopies, portable speakers and the ubiquitous cell phone devices. “Quieres salsita amor?” a women asks her apparent significant other. Kids play on their electronic devices as sounds of games can be heard emanating from their phones. To the right of me a family of five, whom I presume is the father, mother and their three young children bow their heads uniformly in prayer while at a distance a middle aged women sits, legs crossed looking down at grave stones and picking blades off the grass.
Each pays their due deference to their loved ones as seems appropriate to them. I think of the sadness the surviving kin must feel being the survivors of the departed. But then I realize that in the grand scheme of time and space we are not too far behind. Within approximately 200 years time everyone who is alive today in this snap shot in time will no longer be here and will either have been reduced to carbon dust or buried underground slowly decomposing into organic matter. Every living being’s ultimate demise: death, the cessation of consciousness. But why?
The Turritopsis dohrnii commonly known as the immortal jelly fish is able to regenerate itself to a polyp and restart its lifecycle in perpetuity. The Pinacate beetle can withstand impacts to its exoskeleton shell at more than 1,000 times its own weight. The Penicillium moss generates its own natural antibiotic, disabling an attacking bacterium’s ability to form a cell wall rendering it unable to divide and multiply eventually exploding within. It makes me wonder, could it have been any other way? We could have been like the immortal jelly fish when faced with terminal illness or we could have been able to withstand impacts from car accidents, airplane crashes or industrial accidents and easily walked away from them. The millions of people that died from sepsis or complications from other bacterial infections could have been spared if only the discovery of penicillin from the Penicillium moss had been discovered centuries earlier.
The practicality of these miraculous phenomena not harbored by humans are not science fiction, they exist in nature. I don’t pretend to know why we weren’t endowed with these life saving powers. The answer to these questions will have to wait for now.
I reason, we may not be physically stronger than gorillas, or may not be able to breathe under water, unassisted by oxygen equipment, for more than two minutes without coming up for air, and we may not be able to regrow our failing organs, but we do have one supreme ability that gives us a distinct advantage over other species: imagination. Imagination leads us to ask questions and to seek answers, and affords us the innate ability to dream. I’m interrupted again from my stream of consciousness when I hear a women project her voice as to be heard by the farthest person sitting in the circle of those convened.
“No salgas para fuera porque te va a pegar el aire and you’re going to get fucked up.” I get up, brush the grass blades from my pants and walk past the family still enjoying their picnic. I walk carefully as to not step on grave stones. I ride off imagining things to come, as a boy curiously watches me drive off.