It arrived on the ample hip of a woman I call my sister, only she isn't my sister.
The box had the flaps closed at the top and a small hole cut to let the neck of an old timey, glass gallon jug poke through.
"Here you go," she said plunking the large box on my desk sending a stack of files teetering into an avalanche which I stopped by flinging myself on top of it.
"Not there, maybe. Maybe there." I pointed. My face felt tight and frowny as I indicated a desk across the room.
"That's it then?" I felt like I needed to add something to fill the space around us.
Not much of a space filler, it turns out.
My not-sister swooped out as suddenly as she swooped in and left me here alone. The box sits on the desk across the room like it's waiting for me to do something.
I have no idea what to do with it.
Inside is a jug of mead my father made. My father who died 12 years ago. My father who has attached to him a laundry list of disappointments that flap behind him like a ragged kite's tale. In my past he reeks of ideaphoria as he sits in his recliner with his Mother Earth News -- draped in dreams of muscadine orchards and fancy chickens that lay colored eggs and, maybe, the sour taint of memories of late-night poker games in Vietnam.
Except suddenly he has become this box that's sitting across the room waiting for me to do something. And I find myself discomfitted by its proximity which is closer to me than he was in the last 26 estranged years, the last 12 of which he has spent being dead.
I focus on the mechanics of mead, how it's made, how long it lasts. I imagine him brewing it, tasting it. The honey it was made from originated in hives he lovingly tended, bees more present in his life than the trail of three children left behind like bread crumbs leading to a place he'd never return.
Gently he lifts the lid of the hive. I hear them singing. He smokes the hive. "It makes them calm," he explains. They drift, dozy, carrying on. A bee lands on my hand and I freeze. "Don't worry, they won't hurt you if you're careful with them." The bee walks along my hand, the delicate whisper of its tracks on my arm make me fall in love with it, with the miracle of what such a small thing can do.
I cross the room to the box and open it. It smells musty and I wonder where it's been this whole time. Across the top is the name of my aunt in my father's handwriting. Red ballpoint pen.
Inside the box, large pieces of yellow foam fill the open space and I crook my finger through the loop handle of the jug and pull it up. It's covered with dust and cobwebs, an unearthed relic from a reluctantly-revealed past.
I tip the bottle and amber liquid flows, the color heavy. I wonder if it's drinkable. I remember reading about meads discovered in old cellars and ruins.
I want it. I don't want it.
I leave the jug and return to my seat across the room. Sunlight passes through the blinds, stretches across the desk and wraps around the glass, light filtering through, casting gold reflections, revealing nothing.