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The Day After The Funeral

Sophie Lou Wilson

Summer, 2019

The two brothers were nursing mild hangovers as they stumbled down the steps and onto the terrace. The air was sick and heavy with that high summer feeling, but Jean still had yesterday’s jacket draped over his t-shirt. Teenagers were starting to pour off of buses and trains for La Fête de la Musique. A dull sadness washed over Jean when he saw the crowds hanging out near the station and realised that this was the first year neither he nor anyone he knew was doing anything to celebrate. Five years ago, that would have been unthinkable. Now, it just was. 

Christophe sat down opposite his brother and took the crumpled order of service from his pocket. He started to read it with his mouth not quite closed. The words were printed on powder blue glossy paper. He read them over and over but didn’t take them in. Instead, he was thinking about the last conversation he’d had with his father on the phone in the Jardin des Plantes. It had been his birthday and he was walking around watching summer lovers and tourists with backpacks speaking English. He spoke absent-mindedly on the phone, gazing at a girl who was sketching Le Dormanron. Neither of them knew this would be their last conversation. 

Now he was left with an empty grieving feeling. He had imagined what his father’s death would feel like many times. His father wasn’t a good man. He’d treated their mother badly. Christophe knew that, but his father had always believed in him. And, for better or worse, Christophe was his son, whether that was down to their shared an astrological sign or predisposition to depression. In some ways, his father’s death had been a slow suicide, but it somehow still felt sudden and unexpected. Everyone said that he’d been a lesson to Christophe and Jean in how not to live. The kitchen in their childhood home would feel a little emptier next time they sat down for dinner. Christophe realised that whatever he did for the rest of his life, whatever he said, wrote or thought, his father would never know about. This thought came with the force of a punch in the chest.   

While Christophe was looking down at the small blue booklet in his hand, Jean ordered two coffees. When they arrived, Jean took a sip then looked around with an almost palpable sense of nostalgia at finding himself back in his hometown – in a city so small, which held so many memories of so many first times. Christophe had seen this momentary flicker of emotion in his brother’s eyes and had taken it for a memory of their father. He looked away again quickly, feeling guilty for having seen it. He lit a cigarette then slid the pack across the table to Jean. 

Jean took one from the packet and started to speak. “Well, that’s over now,” he said. “I suppose he would’ve liked it, but he probably would’ve liked anything where he was the centre of attention, everyone there bigging him up like that. Of course, no one talked about how he died or why or what he was really like in any kind of negative way. I suppose we can do anything with our lives and when we die people will still be compelled to say nice things about us. It’s kind of comforting. I don’t want to end up like him though. So diminué.” He was slouching forwards towards Christophe with one forearm on the table next to his now empty cup of coffee. 

“What does that mean?” Christophe asked. He had to cough before he spoke. He realised he had hardly said a word since yesterday. 

Jean hesitated. “Depressed. Despondent.” 

“I know what the word means,” Christophe said impatiently. 

“Anyway, that was what I wanted to speak to you about,” Jean continued. “Look, I know you’re burnt out. Wait, don’t deny it. Let me speak. I’m not just talking about since dad died. Before then too. You work too much. Everyone thinks you’re so serious. You don’t want people to think you’re serious, do you?"


Christophe cleared his throat. “Why not?” 

“Don’t be pedantic. Because you’re twenty-five. You’re not supposed to be serious when you’re twenty-five. I don’t need to tell you that.” 

Christophe put out his cigarette but not before lighting another one off the end of it. He was being purposefully indignant. The last thing he wanted was for people to think he was serious. He took a drag and looked around saying, “It’s a lovely day.” 

“And you smoke too much,” Jean said. 

“I didn’t come out here with my brother the day after our dad’s funeral just for you to have a go at me. Besides, smoking is probably one of the few things that makes me seem slightly less serious about life.” 

Jean let out a sigh of disgust. “I have a book I want you to read. When you get time this weekend, I want you to read it.” 

“Great. I’ll read it this weekend.” 

Jean nodded. “I mean, it doesn’t say anything life changing or anything like that, but I think it might help you get some things in perspective. Don’t worry, it’s not some self-help bullshit. It’s a love story, really. I mean essentially, but it’s not just about love. It feels very true, you know? I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid but I enjoyed it, that’s all and whenever I read a good book, I always think I should pass it on to someone and I think you need a good book. I think you’ll feel freer afterwards. It’s hard to find writing that feels so true and real. You see it in certain nineteenth century writers like Zola and Tolstoy. They really wrote. They just wrote it like it is. There are glimpses elsewhere, of course, like in this book I want to give to you.” Jean looked at Christophe expectantly. He seemed to be listening with more enthusiasm now. 

“Do you want the last cigarette, or what?” 

Jean gave the pack of cigarettes a quick glance then looked back at Christophe. “No,” he said, coldly. “But I would like more coffee.” 

Christophe lit the last cigarette while Jean called over the waiter. After the interruption, a silence settled between the brothers. 

“It was quite religious yesterday, wasn’t it?” Jean said after a while. 

“What?” Christopher said. His mind has been elsewhere. 

“The funeral,” he said. “I was just thinking how religious it was and how he wasn’t religious.” 

“Funerals tend to be religious,” Christophe said. “Being close to death makes people that way.” 

“Do you think there’s anything after death?” 


There was a faint gleam of perspiration on Christophe’s forehead. For several minutes now, he had seemed to be losing colour in his face. “Let’s not talk about that,” he said. 

“Why not?” Jean asked. “I think it’s interesting. I don’t want to have a religious funeral, but I suppose if I don’t make that clear before I die then it will be religious by default. As for life after death, I’m not sure about that really. Rationally, I know there’s probably nothing. That it’s probably like sleeping forever. But there is still part of me that wants to believe in something. I like the idea of having a soul and I also quite like the idea of reincarnation, but do I believe in them? I don’t know.” 

“I wish you’d stop talking like that. It’s like I’m not even here. I don’t know what happens after death and neither do you so just stop it – "

“Alright, alright, relax,” Jean said. “I was just thinking aloud.”


Jean went on thinking, to himself this time, when Christophe pushed his chair back suddenly. 

“I’m going inside to get more cigarettes,” he said. 


Christophe needed to get out of the sun. The hangover he thought he had artfully avoided was starting to creep up on him and thinking about death and religion wasn’t helping. He went inside with every intention of buying cigarettes but as he stared at the optics behind the bar his vision started to blur and he had to hold onto a chair to steady himself. He made it to the bathroom and sat down in a stall. Two seconds later he stood up quickly, turned round and vomited into the toilet. Afterwards, he sat on the bathroom floor. He brought his knees in tightly as if trying to make himself smaller. He brought his hands up to either side of his head and pressed hard like he believed squeezing his skull could slow down his thoughts. Then he brought his hands out in front of him and watched them tremble. He wasn’t good with his hands. They were always shaking. 

Christophe wanted to cry. He hadn’t cried at the funeral. Even now he knew the tears he wished to shed were nothing to do with his father at all. It was a selfish kind of sadness, the kind that had followed him around for months now. If anything, his father’s death had helped validate it, given him an explanation when people asked him if he was ok. It had started off small at first, waking one morning and realising that this day would follow the same routine as the ten preceding weekdays and probably the next one hundred into the future. It was four years since he had last been in love. He couldn’t remember what that felt like in real life, but sometimes he would wake in the middle of the night with a warm feeling spread over his body, some leftover emotion from a dream. The feeling always left him as soon as he noticed it. He never gave a name to that feeling but sat up and took a sip of water then stretched his legs out to the empty side of the bed. He wasn’t sure what had prompted this depression today. All he knew was that when he saw everyone arriving off the buses for La Fête de La Musique he had had to turn away and pretend he didn’t care for those kinds of things anymore. But he did. He cared about everything.  

After a while sitting like this, Christophe returned to the table. His cheeks were dry. No tears had come. His forehead was wet though. The sweating hadn’t stopped. 

He must’ve looked worse than he thought because when he sat down, his brother said, “What happened? Are you ok?” 

“Yeah, it’s nothing. I was sick.” 

“I’ll get you some water.” 

Jean went inside. Christophe stared at the building across the road and tried to think of nothing. 

When Jean returned with a glass of water, Christophe drank it in short, quick sips. Afterwards, he looked up at his brother. “Thanks.” 

“No problem,” said Jean. “Are you sure you’re ok?” 

Christophe nodded. 

“Let’s head back,” Jean suggested. 

“You go,” said Christophe. “I don’t want to go back yet.” 

“You look like you need a rest, get out of the heat.”


“I said I’m fine. You go back. I’m going to walk around town for a bit. That’ll make me feel better. I can’t go back yet.” 

Comme tu veux,” Jean sighed. “Whatever. I’ll make sure mum’s ok.” He put some cash down on the table for the coffees, ran his hands through the hair and turned to the station once more. He fixed his gaze on a young man in a jumper with an American flag on it. He looked just like the boy he’d been best friends with as a teenager. Then he looked away, remembering that his teenage best friend would be older now, that he would look different, wherever he was. He put his wallet back in his pocket and cleared his throat then said goodbye to Christophe and walked back in the direction they came from.  

Christophe watched his brother walk away, a shadow against the high June heat. He was glad to be alone. He wanted a drink, but it would be better to wait until it had cooled down a bit. It would be better not to drink alone. He opened his phone and typed, “are you free this evening?” then sent the message. Afterwards he got up and started to walk. 

Sophie is a writer and nostalgic based in London

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