It was her first year away from home during the start of the holidays. She'd been preparing herself for the feelings of "not the way we do it" and was trying really hard to open herself up to new experiences. She had spent Halloween out with friends, not on Halloween itself, that was a work night, but over the weekend. And even though back home they would have all gotten dressed up and gone out to a hayride and a haunted house; the big costume party here was fun. Just different. But different was okay. After all that was part of why she moved to a new city, to experience new things.
But today? Today was rough. It wasn't that her new friends celebrated differently, they didn't celebrate at all. When she had brought it up she was met with either blank stares or worse people who thought it was some sort of devil holiday. She tried to tell them about the Muertos y Marigolds parade back home and showed them some of the pictures on her camera of her friends made up for the day. They still didn't really get it.
So today she was on her own.
Really on her own.
That's the part that was really sinking in. All of her family was at home. All of it. They had been born and died in the same stretch of land for generations. She was the first one to move. To leave. She had no ties to this land. She had no family to celebrate with.
Today she was alone.
And for the first time in the 4 months she had lived here she was also lonely.
She called home. They were getting ready to go have their picnic. Sweets, treats and a fair amount of alcohol had been loaded into the baskets and they were going to meet with the rest of the family for a day of celebrations and remembrance. So sorry she wasn't there. They all missed her terribly. Light a candle and celebrate with us.
She hung up feeling worse than before she called.
She looked around her apartment and sighed. It was so empty. Just yesterday she had loved everything about it. But today? Today it felt sterile. Empty. Plain. Lonely.
Well, why not make the best of it? She would light that candle and pretend at least.
She pulled out her box of decorations from the closet. It was mostly Christmas things but she had a few clay calaveras in there as well. She set those out on her side table in the living room. She pulled a shot glass out of the cabinet and poured some tequila setting that on the table as well. She had some leftover candy from trick or treaters last night and she picked her favorites and put those next to the shot glass. Then she sat back and smiled. It wasn't home but it was something.
She found a candle in the kitchen and added that to her makeshift shrine. Then she lit it and closed her eyes and thought of her grandfather. He was always her first. She had just started to think about her favorite memories with him when she heard the thunk. She opened her eyes and looked around her apartment. What fell? Had she not put the box back nicely? Had it fallen off the shelf? She started to get up when she noticed that the shot glass had fallen over. Shit. How had that happened? She must have put it on the edge of...
Her thoughts stuttered in her head as she looked at the tipped over glass and the mess that wasn't. The tequila was gone. One of the candy bars was now a wrapper. The other one still sitting there untouched.
She looked around the apartment. It was still empty.
But she was no longer alone.
She felt the whisper through her head, "I don't like the peanut butter ones. Be a good girl and get me another toffee."
She sat back and laughed. Her grandfather had always loved toffee best.
Why had she thought she would be alone today?
Why had she thought he was tied to a piece of dirt?
Home is where you are, where we are. Home isn't a place. Home is us.
She poured another shot and went to look for more toffee.