The final book in my English class this semester is Dante’s Inferno, part of The Divine Comedy. The Inferno is the journey through the circles of hell. It’s beautifully written, especially when my teacher reads it to us in Italian. Death is a topic that some people don’t like to talk about, but it isn’t something we can really get away from. Contemplating death, we can also think about life.
This summer, in France, we took the Metro to an area of Paris further from our apartment to visit Cimetiere du Père-Lachaise cemetery in the 20th arrondissment. I had planned to go, because I wanted to see the graves of people like Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Our exchange student, Thomas, came with us bringing along his girlfriend.
It was humid day out, and after we set out among the graves we realized navigating the cemetery was harder than it looked. What looked like rows on the map turned out to be indistinguishable clusters of tombs. The bathrooms onsite, FYI, are very sketchy. If your not a guy, pee before you get there.We split up in groups and wandered through the many graves. I thought about the strange desire that fans have to kiss Oscar Wilde’s tomb or decorate Jim Morrison’s grave. The cemetery had to surround Oscar Wilde’s grave with a barrier yet people still try to climb on neighboring tombs just to plant their lips on the stone.
The cemetery is a beautiful mess. Crowded tombs on a slanted hill shaded by green trees overhead. We found some of the famous graves, but others were difficult without easy to read names etched on them.
One of my professors told us that supposedly when Oscar Wilde was lying on his deathbed, he said, “Either these drapes have to go, or I do.” In this world, life can take you many places. Places you never dreamed of and some that you dream of for years. But in the end, we are all going to exit through the same door. Walking through a monument to that door is an interesting exercise.