On my way back to New Zealand, I stopped off in Southern Cal for a few days. I attempt to resurface once a year in So Cal to remind my extended family of my existence. Because I missed the Dying Party two days before my arrival, my grandma organized a fifteen-person brunch in Long Beach. The great-aunts were there.
The following day, my cousin and I watched the World Cup semi-final between Germany and Spain. We had been seated in Belmont Shore's sports bar Legends. We ordered a beer tower, because nobody wants to be sober during a semi-final World Cup game. And then my cousin got a lunatic phone call.
"Where are you," my grandma demanded. She was as hysterical as if she'd just lost a baby.
"At Legend's with Kara. World Cup game."
"So you're not in the Dominican Republic?"
"You're in Long Beach?" she continued.
"You saw me this morning. What's going on?"
The great-aunt with more strokes than a round of golf had answered her phone. A man's voice informed her that one of her nephews was in trouble. When she questioned which one, he asked what her nephews' names were. Her nephews' names didn't issue into her stroked-out brain. Her great-nephew's names did. She named my brother and cousin. The Voice said that my cousin had been arrested in the Dominican Republic on narcotics charges. My great-aunt entered something between convulsive and spastic. She raged, repeatedly asking how much money he needed. She screamed for her daughter, who was outside watering the plants. Her daughter asked The Voice for a contact number. He hung up. My great-aunt called her sister, my grandma, hysteric about my cousin, the Dominican Republic, and drugs.
My grandma replied, "What are you talking about? You saw him yesterday morning at brunch."
"Yes, but what did he do after brunch?"
"He worked at the Yacht Club and then came home."
"But how do you know? Are you sure he's not in the Dominican Republic?" my great-aunt insisted.
It was after this exchange that he received the call from my grandma.
"I saw her yesterday. I saw you this morning. I swear I'm not in the Dominican Republic. I'm on Second Street with Kara," he reiterated to my grandma and hung up.