Yesterday I blew R's cover at the dentist. The hygienist asked me a question about him that didn't make sense. She repeated herself, saw that I was still puzzled, then said, but he's a gravedigger, right?
I had been horizontal in the chair with my head tipped back and her tools in my mouth for about an hour. I still wasn't sure what she was saying. R does work in a cemetery, yes. Given its size, one can even call it The Cemetery. But he doesn't dig graves.
I told them their cemetery, high up in the mountains under the great pines trees, was very restful and it was lovely to see that people visited their dead and kept flowers on the graves. The men were pleased that we appreciated their graveyard.
At the dentist's office, I was thinking about my teeth, not whatever alter ego R has assumed when he goes out into the world. He has a couple. I was lightheaded. I didn't have an explanation for the hygienist. Nor is it my responsibility to explain what other people do. Not unless they're in my stories. R is in his own.
She protested. She said she was sure he was a gravedigger. I said... but doesn't he come here after work? Haven't you noticed that he's wearing a dress shirt and a tie? Well, yes, she said, but but but--he has big hands! He looks like someone who could dig graves!
I asked if she'd never noticed how clean his hands are. They're the hands of someone who does a desk job. (I know about hands because I grew up in a blue-collar family.)
The hygienist was flabbergasted. But he tells us stories about graves! Sure, he works at the cemtery, he knows stories about graves. He maybe knows more stories than the people who sit in the machines and dig them.
I was sorry to disappoint her. She'd called in the dentist to tell her too. There were lots of Voyons doncs! and C'est pas vrai!
I had paid and was putting my coat and boats on when the hygienist called me back down the hallway. Is it true, she said urgently, that he saw Céline Dion at René Angélil's funeral? That has to be true! It is, I said, it is.
When I got home, I asked R what this story about being a gravedigger was all about. But I am, he said. I'm a virtual gravedigger. What's the problem?