Many years ago, I found myself in a beat up old car with a Mexican flight attendant.
We had met on an Air NewZealand flight when my whiskey landed in my lap on the turbulent flight. The strapping lad with dark eyes and a bright smile slipped me an extra travel size bottle with a grin. We exchanged numbers with plans to meet up in Auckland City once the plane had landed.
He ended up taking residence in the beautiful harbour city, and So Did I…for 4 years.
We became life long friends.
Until he died in a motorcycle accident.
Only nights before his death, my Mexican friend and I drove around the botanical gardens. The Auckland museum, a bright white building stood tall amongst the rolling green hills of the gardens, scattered with breathtaking trees and greenery. Even in the middle of the city, there was always ‘green’ in Auckland City. I remember on one of our drunken nights of shenanigans we encountered a random goat while drinking wine at the city look-out.
Only in New Zealand.
This particular night, we drove around aimlessly just because, and my friend invited me into his world playing one of his favourite albums. Spanish lyrics beamed through the speakers of the old Commodore we had scored from the newspaper for a thousand bucks. With each sentence sung, he translated the lyrics for me in English. I remember thinking to myself, looking up at the stars in a country not my own with a friend from the other side of the globe, this moment was special. I would never forget it.
Fast forward to dry-cleaned suits and hearses in 2016, it is Wednesday, and I was allocated the role of Hearse Driver. Macca, my best mate at work, hailing from Italy, is my partner for the funeral and excitement bounces between us when we see our names side by side on the roster.
Hearse polished and coffin secured in back, we head down the freeway towards the cemetery.
‘I brought something,’ he chimes, pulling a CD from his folder of paper work. If you have read my previous post about Macca, you know the bond we share through music.
Today, it is a collection of his favourite Italian ballads, and his cheeks glow as the songs pumps from the speakers. Together we bop our heads smiling, careful not to appear ‘too happy’ in the hearse. At traffic lights, we look ahead with our best stern expressions so the onlookers don’t judge us for smiling with a coffin on board. The light turns green, and again, we smile and tap our feet.
Suddenly, I feel a tear, as Macca translates the lyrics from Italian to English. Some of the most beautiful words I have ever heard;
‘In my dreams I see your hands…’
‘You love me like I love you, and this is forever…’
‘My heart is sore, but it is not your fault, It was me who gave it to you…’
‘I must take a drink to forget your beautiful eyes…’
With my hands on the steering wheel of a Hearse, sitting next to my new best mate, I gulped away the lump that had formed in my throat. I was transported back to Auckland with my Mexican friend who translated every lyric from Spanish to the language I understood.
Together, Macca and I moved to the smooth flutes and Bouzouki’s on route to the graveyard as city folk drove past us, attending to their busy lives.
It was not until we came to a dead end street that we realised, we had forgotten to take the highway exit to the cemetery.
Faced with bunnies bouncing across a paddock in the middle of nowhere, Macca and I looked at one another and broke into laughter.
‘Macca! I believe we are lost.’
‘I’m sorry!’ he chuckled. “I was lost in the music!’
‘You were lost in translation!’ I laughed.
I gazed into the revision mirror, my eyes landing on the glossy coffin with yellow flowers in the back, and I am struck with a sudden realisation…
The deceased in the back was Mrs. Harris…
My Mexican friend, all those years ago had asked me to call him ‘Harris’ because his Spanish name was far too complicated to pronounce!!!
‘Just look for the headstones,’ Macca instructed, peering over his spectacles, studying a map of the city.
‘No problem,’ I sniffled, wiping the tear that crept from my eye.
I was reminded, There is no such thing as a coincidence.