The millennial graveyard is replete with all the accommodations that the baby boomer ones never had. For starters, people are provided with bottled water as they’re asked to form an orderly line before entering so as to ensure that only a few “visitors” are allowed in at a time, therefore creating the best possible atmosphere for photographing. After all, what could be a more “Instagram-worthy” experience than the unique tableau of gravestone upon gravestone. An archaic, “novelty” concept to the millennial, who can’t imagine being in such a position (neither literally nor figuratively). One that would allow them to dream of using up such valuable land and space for the purpose of placing corpses in it. Corpses that would surely not enjoy the value of said space any longer, thus not even half as much as the millennial. Corpses that couldn’t possibly know that their new purpose in life was to serve as “backdrop” to the tirelessly roving eyes of millennials seeking to curate their next “experience.”
Rachel, who had been the one to pay the cemetery’s fee of $45 for entry ($65 if she had chosen the drinks package wherein one is allowed to sip champagne by the grave of their choice), inveigled her friend, Fiona, to come along with her. Fiona, while always game for a photo op, still had some slight misgivings about the appropriateness of the “event.” Rachel quashed her hesitancy into submission when she went ahead and paid for Fiona’s ticket. It made it hard to resist and, after all, she couldn’t deny her curiosity about the cemetery, having never been into one except when she was very young and her grandmother had just died. It was still at a time when entering cemeteries was a free activity. Anyone could walk in without paying to. Even homeless people–which is why it used to be such a stench-laden, bottle-ridden place. Then they got rid of them by instituting the fees to enter. One could say it was the gentrification archetype for the dead.
Except the dead couldn’t have cared less what was going on above them, despite the pathetic, clinging beliefs of some protesters who tried until the very end to picket against the shift in the “cemetery model.” Many of them, of course, had simply been coming to cemeteries for years and taking pictures and videos without being charged to do so. That was what the majority of the faction was protesting–over, say, actual concern for the violation of the dead’s rights. Indeed, one might say that the only stone left unturned (no pun intended) on the matter of ensuring everyone–no matter how niche their “sect”–had their rights was when it came to those of the dead. Were they not still technically people too?
This is what Fiona wondered as she ambled insecurely through the initial portion of the cemetery with the champagne that had been slapped into their hands (Rachel had decided to opt for the $65 package in the end). They were told that they would only have the first few feet of the graveyard to use for the “I’ll Be Sober When I’m Dead” photo; after that, the glasses would be collected back from them whether they had finished drinking or not. “I think it’s an environmental precaution or something…” Rachel offered as she sipped her drink in a “ready for the camera” manner while Fiona took the picture. “They don’t want us to, like, litter shattered glass.”
Fiona felt disgusted (and disgusting) when her turn came to have an image “immortalized.” But looking around her, she knew immortality wasn’t even achievable in symbolic gestures. The entire affair was depressing her beyond all measure, but she continued to go along with it, not wanting to “ruin” Rachel’s so-called “good time.” Indeed, she had gone all out for the “costume encouraged” occasion, wearing elaborate mourner’s attire complete with a black mourning veil (granted, it would never be as hardcore as those of the nineteenth century women who risked their own death in grieving by wearing the toxic materials that comprised a crape veil).
Rachel had seemed disappointed that all Fiona could bother to wear was her usual vibrant attire–a bright yellow dress pocked with giant, painterly florals. “Really Fiona? That’s what you’re wearing for this?”
Fiona offered, “It’s ironic?” Rachel couldn’t argue with that. No millennial could ever argue with this go-to defense, in fact.
So it was that they were off to the cemetery, now meandering about it as though they themselves wouldn’t one day be in the ground (or whatever version the disposal of millennial remains would eventually take). The function of cemeteries in the past had at least served as a reminder to those who visited it that they, too, would one day be in the ground. But with its “function” amended to the millennial taste, it was proving more and more of a challenge for people to fear their own mortality, stylizing the once hallowed milieu of Death as “a fun-filled cadaver safari for every guy and ghoul.” And without a fear of “expiry,” there is little respect for life and its ephemeral nature. Fiona, cautiously trudging through the mud and the discarded twigs from the trees above them, could see this was part of why millennials had been the most godless generation yet.
As a key aspect of the experience, a number of “corpses” had been paid to “rise from the dead” at the sanctioned moment when it would have the most “horrifying” effect on people as the “zombie bodies” danced in choreographed unison to Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want With My Body” (the version she made with Christina Aguilera, of course–for no one was allowed to even say R. Kelly’s name anymore without risking penalty of death). Watching this unfold before her while Rachel and others in their timed group delightedly captured the spectacle on their phones, she was starting to feel like she was tripping out. Having horrible side effects from an edible or something. But no, this was all really happening.
She scurried off to the side when no one was paying attention, huddling next to an imposing grave bedecked with an angel statue and the name MICHEL ANGENOIR engraved on it. A Frenchman in Los Angeles. How rare. As she gingerly touched her hand upon the foot of the statue, she was startled by the click of Rachel’s camera phone. “See? I told you that you’d get into it.” Fiona scowled. Before she could tell Rachel to delete the image, she had already posted it to her Instagram. She informed Fiona, “I captioned it ‘Angel of Mine,’ k? Like the Monica song.”
Why oh why the fuck was she here? Fiona asked of herself as the accursed “experience” kept going on for another thirty minutes, while also trying to reason, Was it any worse than people in the 1300s extracting bodies from cemeteries for a food option during the Great Famine? Still, what they were doing was based on survival rather than pure vanity. The blessed finale of the “tour” reached its pinnacle at an unmarked grave their guide showed them to, one where they could pose on top of it in various ways since “it’s not sacrilege or anything because it’s not spoken for. No name. There’s no one inside.”
When the ghost of the owner of the grave, apparently present despite his name not being accounted for, Rachel continued gleefully posing, assuming it was another fantastical addition to what she had paid for. It was not, yet the ghost of this presumable baby boomer grew so wary of trying to scare her into having respect for the dead that he finally just retreated back into the ground. For you can’t terrorize a millennial into feeling guilty about doing what they need to for the ultimate photo.