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Reunion by Rachel Sherman  

My cousin comes to me from Tallahassee. She is fresh blood for my family, all the way from the sunshine state.


I find her in my parents’ lobby. She brings duffel bags of summer fun and hangers to hang her club clothes on. When she tries things on and makes her mouth loose, she reminds me of me and a girl I used to love wrapped up in one.


My cousin already has a twin. She is a sister in a sorority so she doesn’t need me now. But before we were born, we were one. There was the grandfather who was us, unsplit. He separated, having more and more children. By the time we came along, he loved us less.


I dress her up, take her out, show her the town and then let her go. Before that I give her my own gold nameplate to wear around her neck, to collar her, so that she knows who she is in my city.


My cousin tells stories she has brought with her from the South. She has never been up here except in movies. I show her our island, how the water turns to milk from the white fluorescent lights of boating docks. When we drive across the bridge, the window breeze blows our drunken heads of hair.


We have the same hair.


What someone gave to her and not to me is ease. We are both spicy, but she’s overcooked. Her triangle tits are brown at the edges. She has been in the South for too long.


I am getting to the part where I take her, back down South. But first we must go to the top of tall buildings. I must bring her to the suburbs and show her where I was hurt. I must look at her pile of smile pictures — some with hair curly, some straight.


Can you believe she is my cousin? My own? When we walk down the street I watch the men watch her. I know what it is to be a mother or a boyfriend. She feels like a cake I have made and I am proud.


Let me taste her.


She gives the necklace back before heading home.

I travel down for a reunion. I take her outside in the hot marsh of her state. This is no northern suburb, but there is the smell of the sweat of salt water, a smell that reminds me of home.


We have other cousins: a boy and a girl. We spy on them in the garage together. The girl is all-over freckled and large breasted from her father’s side. She is tainted by the skin that was married into and passed on. Skin that came with money, and was too stubborn to let itself be washed over by the color of our forefathers.


Our other cousin, the boy, is from our side and beautiful. He lays into her on the mattress in the garage while we peek, our breaths on the glass sweet from gum. She loves him moving there, flattered, flattened, away from the reunion and the relatives that miss them. We are out here, our bare hands sharing sweat that reeks of where we came from.


Let me take her.


I watch our cousins and wonder, is he trying to lick each freckle off? Her body is not lithe like the cousin I have by the thigh. I can feel the pulse in her shorts that is mine in my skirt. Beneath this, we are both naked.


Through the window we can see the garage light on. Below that, the light spreads and fades until it hits the outermost skin of our two cousins. The light cannot reach where he reaches and cannot claw her like he does, where the skin opens and he is inside.


I want to be inside.


But she is the freckled cousin and what I have in my hand is more of me. I grab a pound of her chest, still looking through the window. I mix the parts in the front of her with the parts in the back. I know what she wants like I know what I want, and all four of us, our family, keep time in the heat.

For more Rachel Sherman, read:
Over Chinese

©1999 Rachel Sherman and