I Keep Driving East but I Can't Find Your Grave

/ Nika Shlopov

Nonfiction2 min reading time

I get in my car and I drive east, telling myself that that is the only direction I can go in and not see myself in the reflection of the buildings.

So I drive. East. On street roads, not the highway, so I can memorize the footsteps of the path I’ll take when the world ends. Because when the world ends, everyone will be going west, outwards, to the ocean. And I’d like to do that too, but since everyone else will, I’d better not.

I keep driving. I’ll know when to pull over; he’d let me know. But sometimes he likes to make atheists wait a little longer. That makes sense though, so I don’t blame him.

It is, however, Sunday and I think God took pity on me because I only have to drive 10 minutes before pulling right into a veteran’s cemetery. I drive around the loop of graves and park, turning the engine off, but staying inside. Tomorrow is Memorial Day, so there are more American flags than people, but less flowers than graves. I wish I’d brought flowers to put on an empty grave, but I didn’t know I’d end up here today. The people in those graves probably didn’t know they'd end up here either.

From behind tinted windows, I watch couples and singles walk through rows and columns. The couples hold hands, the singles don’t, and I continue to sit in my car. A man walks by my window, oddly close, and he reminds me of my grandfather, whose grave I’ve never seen. A grave in a cemetery that is still a war zone for those laid in it. Please, God, I hope it’s still there.

When I found out about my grandfather, my father was crying. What I also remember was my mother explaining to me why girls like me can’t go to funerals in places like that. It didn’t seem fair that an elderly, but not old, man had to die in a war that he wasn’t fighting in. I think that’s why I’m an atheist, God. I think that’s why.

Having not left the car, I turn on the engine back on and pull out of the cemetery. At the intersection, I turn right, away from the ocean, driving east. The world is ending all around me and I can’t stand seeing myself in the reflection of the buildings any longer.