We are ghosts at the family reunion, my cousin and I. White makeup coats our faces, flowing white sheets wrap around our bodies, and we fly into the front yard, up the driveway. We want to show her mother, but when her mother sees us she puts out her hands, palms first. Go back inside, she says, then looks behind her. It’s dark, but there is a street lamp some ways away. In my memory, it must have been a mile, at least, but I know it was closer. It provides enough light to see by, and in the yellow glow I see my father’s cousin, surrounded by other men. Two of them are trying to hold the cousin back as he struggles, his head tipped back like a wolf howling at the moon. He may have been howling, at something none of us could see. Go back inside.
Later, someone tells me that he was drunk. Somehow I find out that this is not the first time something like this has happened, that he should not have been drinking in the first place. Go back inside. He had just gotten out of prison, and years later my dad will refer to his sentence as an overreach by an eager prosecutor. No one tells us these things as we stand in the driveway, white sheets hanging limp around our bodies. Go back inside. Years and years after that, my family will be on vacation, and my father will get a phone call. His cousin is dead. He lies on the bed while his sunburned legs blister and peel. Go back inside.
Grace Moore is a writer from Washington. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and the occasional poem. She also writes articles on travel, mental health, writing, and books. Sometimes she’s funny, or at least that’s what her mom says. Follow her on Instagram @gracieawriter.