Disclaimer: Lost is the property of ABC. Title from my (possibly poetic) mishearing of 'Lifeboats' by Snow Patrol.
poking out the child's eyes of ancient gods
So Miles doesn't cry at his mother's funeral. That, after he refused to look into the open coffin, makes most of the other mourners think he's heartless. Or maybe just a bad son. But these are mostly people that Ma worked with, and she sat at the same desk for so many years that all of them saw him go from quiet little boy to troubled young man (God he hates when people say that; who doesn't have troubles, but he's so fucked up that the noun gets applied as an adjective to him) and wondered what went wrong. Certainly nothing Lara did, but a single woman can't do everything by herself; a single woman can't raise a son without a father, or at least some suitable substitute. Which there never was. So maybe it's understood that he is a bad son; too full of metal studs and ink and anger to see what his mother did for him. He doesn't understand what parents sacrifice for their children, let alone what his mother sacrificed for him. Maybe ingrate is too strong a word – too strong for a funeral anyway – but a normal son would shed a tear for his poor mother, robbed of life by cruel cancer.
So maybe Miles can't really hear them thinking it. Sometimes you don't need to actually hear it to know it's happening. The Ladies – that's what Ma always called them, 'the ladies at the office', and he added the capitals; like they're some kind of feudal family – the Ladies wondered if he'd be delivering the eulogy, and he didn't know if he should say, 'Ma's Catholic' or explain that the priest would do everything, so maybe he just cemented their low opinion of him when it took him forever to answer.
The thing is Miles has done his mourning and even if he hasn't, this isn't where he'd choose to do it. Ma's gone, and looking at her body, fixed up, made up, dressed up, like she never was even sick and pretending that it's her…that's a lie just as bad as the one that the two of them lived for all these years. People don't want that explained to them, though. They're looking at him like he's damaged, and of course he is, but not in the way they think – like if he's not going to care that his mother's gone, couldn't he at least put on a show for the occasion? Do something besides sit in that front pew, ignoring the kneeler because he's not going to pretend like he doesn't have any idea what happens when we die; he's not going to kneel and bow his head and imagine fluffy white clouds and dollar store angel wings for Ma. When he first met with the priest, the one Ma liked best at St Therese's, he took Miles's hand in what Miles guessed was supposed to be a comforting gesture, and he thought just another religious nut who doesn't get it. But today he thinks the priest understands Miles better than anyone else in the room, and even though they've barely exchanged two words since he got to the church, Miles can see why Ma liked him best.
When the funeral mass ends, there's one last chance to pass by the coffin. "Don't you want to say good-bye to your mother?" one of the Ladies asks him brusquely, tears making her eyes look runny.
So Miles breaks down and does it, just because he's sick of these people staring at him like this; it's his mother's funeral for fuck's sake, and shouldn't he be able to act how he wants; but he approaches the coffin and stands there for a long moment. And he's not trying to do it, really he's not, because he's been half afraid of what Ma was thinking when she died; more than half afraid that what she was thinking was how disappointing her son was.
But here's what she was thinking: she was guilty, like maybe her tumor was her guilt spreading through her body and taking over, because her own anger always stopped her from telling Miles that his father died on a small, strange island in the south Pacific.
He breaks the contact and stumbles back from the coffin. The Ladies look at him approvingly. He's finally crying.