Before me is a castrated man. Lipstick kisses cover the glass barrier between him and me.
I am visiting the grave of Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Wilde is one of many famous people buried here and adorning his tomb is a Sphinx-like statue seemingly in flight. However, the figure’s testicles were always controversial and during construction, in 1908, they were deemed too large. A vandal removed them in 1961, and they became the cemetery superintendent’s paperweight.
Wilde’s grave has always attracted a lot of visitors and kissing it became the done thing. Hence the addition of a glass surround easily cleaned of lipstick.
Another of the cemetery’s famous tombs is that of the rock star, Jim Morrison. Like a rider on a storm, he shot to legendary status dying, aged 27, from a heroin overdose in a Paris apartment.
The sight of a spotted toy dog and other tasteless junk littering Morrison’s grave disappoints me. He wouldn’t want to be remembered this way. However soon a group of young people arrive carrying wreaths of fresh flowers. A cheer explodes as they lay the flowers on Morrison’s grave.
‘Are you fans?’ I ask.
‘It’s her father’s funeral, and there are too many flowers.’
I see a teary eye girl, too young to lose a father, and remember sitting beside my father as he fought for life in an ICU.
Wilde wrote, ‘Death must be so beautiful.’
Sometimes death is beautiful but not today. Today it is simply sad.