You’re so lucky you’re not here right now. It’s worse than I could have imagined. Remember what happened to the clubhouse after the hillside flooded? We always said they should just tear the place down. There’s mold along the wall and ceiling corners the same size and color as the pâté over on the buffet table. Maybe something airborne, too; with each passing second I feel I’m acquiring some sort of respiratory disease. Especially when sandwiched among such a crowd. I mean really, everyone’s here but you: family from near and far; every neighbor we ever knew. We used to joke about Grandpa Syd going a bit nuts but now it’s no laughing matter. I saw him pour his Scotch and soda all over his checkered slacks while lecturing to a framed wall photo of a golf trophy presentation from generations ago. And Granny Phyllis is scarier than ever, a genuine bag of bones with liver spots grown big enough for a game of Twister. When I shook her hand she didn’t slip me a bill like she used to, just a cold creepy chill and her deepest condolences. At least she cares. I get the sense that most here are feigning grief and are actually enjoying the impromptu reunion, the free drinks and abundant hors d’oeuvres. Dad never should have invited them. The Coburns, the Salazars, the Diekroegers; old neighbors wherever I look. Even today Mr. Diekroeger glared at me through the shadows below those bushy eyebrows. That bastard will never forgive me for the night I crashed the Camaro through his hedgerow and tore up his lawn. This isn’t fun. I’m having a hard time dealing with this, of engaging in conversation and answering questions. Particularly the ones about you: inquiries about where you are and what you’re doing and why you’re not here. I explain that, unlike me, you were always driven by wanderlust and you’re ascending to new heights in Tibet or Nepal or maybe the Andes by now. They ask if you know about Melanie, about what happened. I tell them it’s been nearly two years since anyone’s heard from you and there’s no way to get in touch. As far as you know, nothing’s changed. Everything is as it was when you left. You’re so lucky. Wish I were you.
Roland Goity lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he writes in the shadows of planes coming and going from SFO. His stories can be found in Fiction International, The Raleigh Review, Word Riot, Compass Rose, PANK, and more recently in The MacGuffin, Bluestem, and Underground Voices.