Cemeteries and Parking Garages

I prefer cemeteries to parking garages.

“Why do you have to pick?” I don’t have to, but I have anyway: cemeteries.

Parking garages are the most sterile use of cement in existence. Parking garages echo. Light is fluorescent—too white, like over-bleached teeth.

And in Lima, parking garages seem especially cramped and grey. To build them, construction companies dig: They dig six, seven, twelve or more levels deep, then pour a winding honeycombed labyrinth up to the surface. And in Peru, you navigate parking garages knowing you’re in earthquake country.

It’s difficult to tell, at a glance, if shadows in parking garages are stains from exhaust, from dripping water… shadows from overhanging pipes or looming columns… There are so many shadows. Something posing as a shadow, or something that doesn’t cast one, could slide through a space like this with ease.

Parking garage in Lima, Peru.

Cemeteries, in contrast, are green.

Yes, cemeteries vary across time and place… but one way or another, we seem to bring green to our dead.

In Ancón, a seaside district in the north of Peru, the earth is dry and salty. Its cemetery rests on sand and gravel. Still, when I visited on Día de los Muertos about 3 years ago, it was drenched in green: flowers, real and manufactured; ferns; potted plants; stubborn trees, aided by faithful human hands.

And in Kentucky, where I’m from, gravestones melt into the earth itself. Moss and weather nibble at the granite. Some stones look almost like a natural formation, or at least like a formation dragged into place by some ancient and now expired civilization.

If ghosts pad among these mazes, their footsteps are soft. Their whispers, like our own, must be absorbed by the trees. If restless souls are bound to their bodies, a century or so of birdsong and rain would surely soothe them.

“Rest in Peace” indeed.

A crocheted rose, bought on Día de los Muertos from one of the peddlers lining the road leading up to the cemetery in Ancón, Peru.
Taken at Lexington Cemetery in Kentucky, Spring 2019.
Taken at Lexington Cemetery in Kentucky, Spring 2019. “VINCE” – Marker for William Vince (1812 to 1896) and Elizabeth Vince (1825 to 1910). The cemetery’s website offers this obituary note: “Mrs. Elizabeth Vince, 81, one of the wealthiest and best known women in the county, died last night. She leaves eight children.”
Taken at Lexington Cemetery in Kentucky, Spring 2019. Markers for unknown individuals, death dates ~1820s.

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