“Oh come on, we have to go while we’re here.” She was insistent. “How can we go back and not say we explored the graveyard? It’s the most famous thing about this place!”
She was, of course, right. I’ve never cared for even the most elegantly composed graveyards. There is the obvious sense of one’s own mortality, surrounded by the long dead. But what I find more powerful is that clawing sense of the whole futility of it all. You pass the freshly created graves, carefully tended with fresh flowers. Then it’s on to the older more faded stones until you get to the point where there is no one left to remember. No one left to care. The point that happens is the point at which we may as well have never existed. Whoever we are, no matter what we do, we all get there. The point at which no one cares.
I couldn’t think of a reasonable excuse to not go. She was right. All the tour guides featured it, and once home we would be questioned about it. Introspective reflections not being a particularly valid reason, certainly not one that would pass muster with Caroline. She cares and tries, but I was in no mood for another cheery punch on the arm.
“Oh come on cheer up! The walk will do you good.” Too late. I rubbed my arm and grabbed my jacket.
The hotel was thankfully close to the graveyard. After a short stroll we arrived to find a huge decorative iron arch above heavy gates. It was magnificent, but faded with great age which gave it an eerie sense of permanence. It jarred with the modern city, almost seeming like some magical force had preserved it from the swirling change that surrounded it. The great arch that topped the gates had an inscription which I was unable to read.
I nudged Caroline “Work will set you free?” I suggested. She tutted.
We entered and walked through an avenue of tall slowly swaying trees that opened up into the inner entrance. Its path branched off in four directions, all leading downwards. The social hierarchy of the city was maintained even in death. The richest had the large mausoleums at the top, the pauper graves at the bottom of the hill. I looked down and hoped she would be satisfied with the ornate inhabitants of the top of the hill. The climb back up from the paupers looked tough, and my legs were tired.
Luckily Caroline’s quarry was of more significant stock. We stopped at his gravestone. It was quite magnificent. Adorned with various angels and mythical beasts, ornate poetry and gifts left by adoring fans through the years.
“Can you believe he’s so close to us. I’m getting chills”. Caroline cooed.
I grunted a response. I’ve never been overwhelmed by being in the presence of a live celebrity; dead ones leave me doubly unmoved. As she started to take photographs I wandered off to stave off boredom.
I took in the plant life as much as the graves. The mix of tasteful shrubs and large deciduous trees, all surprisingly well tended for. Suddenly the fauna changed. In between 4 large palms sat a group of odd stone cut faces. They protruded from the ground in a haphazard way, giving them a strange laid-back air. I stared at the largest of them, in the centre of the bunch. It was at least two meters high, but less than a quarter of that wide. At the top of the stone pole was what looked like an Incan face. I stared at its blank expressionless features and it stared back. Then as I went to turn, it winked.
I turned back and waited. Then again as I turned, I swear it winked again. I scrambled back up the path. Almost breathless, I spluttered to Caroline “Come with me you have to see this”. She opened her mouth to try and protest, but before she could I had her hand in mine and whisked her off to the winking pole.
We stopped in front of them again. Again we stared for what seemed to be forever. Caroline took a few obligatory snaps of me in front of them until she finally had enough.
“I’ve no idea why you dragged me down here. I’m going to finish taking photos; I’ll see you in a little bit. Weirdo!” She cheerfully shouted as she ran back up the hill.
I went to turn and it happened again. I turned back and this time rather than the blank expression there was a broad smile on its face. Then its mouth opened.
“They’ll never believe you.”