I saw my first dead person when I was sixteen years old. I was in the dining room at home. Most of my family were gathered around the room. The coffin was along the far wall and I could see the lid was off. I could just about see the body but there was a white silk cloth covering the face. I felt someone take my hand. It was my eldest brother, Big John.
“Do you want to look at him?” he asked. I really wasn’t sure! My mum told me that when my dad had gone to the morgue to identify the body he didn’t recognise his own son so I was dreading seeing him. Big John gently pulled me towards the coffin and removed the cloth. I closed my eyes tightly, my hands sweaty and trembling. I opened them and was shocked to see the body lying before me.
He looked exactly the same! He looked asleep! I could see every minute detail of his handsome face, the tiny freckles on his nose, the Cupid’s bow of his wide mouth, the unblemished skin. I wanted to wake him. I was excited. He wasn’t dead after all. It wasn’t true. It was just a very bad joke. A mistake! I touched his hands to waken him. They were cold and hard and dead. He was dead. My brother John (who was known as Nhoj because he already had a brother called John) was definitely, undeniably, indisputably dead.
I looked up at my eldest brother looking down at his younger brother. Why would parents give two sons the same name? The consequences were clearly visible…