There is no more flour on the countertop but Grandma bends over it anyway, digging her nails into the grooves of the wood to dislodge specks of dust and drops of sap. That’s where I saw Grandpa, moving like a shadow, as light as air, as thin as light. The kitchen is small and dark. The walls are made of black wood panels that are unevenly set against the concrete foundation. In the very early morning, when a few rays of sun manage to sneak their way through the dusty square windows, the concrete looks very white against the black panels. In places, I can slip three fingers between the panels and pry them away from the wall. They must have been glued on, because my fingers always come back sticky and sooty.
Grandpa died in the kitchen a few years ago and I was there. I don’t like spending much time in that room. The shelves are lined with mismatched tins of tuna and canned tomato, and yellow packages of biscuits and crackers, and high up out of my reach, Grandma keeps raspberry jam that she buys at the Saturday markets for Easter lunch after mass. The day Grandpa died, she had been outside growing carrots and gooseberries. I snuck into the kitchen and knew she wouldn’t see me through the windows. I pushed a chair up to the wall and pulled myself up to the shelf. The jam was a little out of my reach, so I leaned against one of the wood panels. I slipped my fingers behind it on the side. The shelves were dusty and my fingers left prints. I tried to wipe them clean with my elbows.
There is fresh bread for breakfast and it is warm from the oven, but mealy inside. I pick at the crust and leave crumbs on the table. They fall into the grooves of the wood. Grandma doesn’t look up but says eat, Marcus. Marcus is my grandpa’s name, but she’s called me Marcus ever since he died. She knows that I am not him, that I have young skin and hairless hands and very green eyes not like his very blue eyes. I don’t know why she calls me Marcus but I never tell her that’s not my name. I know she knows that I am not Grandpa because she bought me a school uniform last week and it fit perfectly, and my grandpa was a big man, and he didn’t go to school anymore by the time he died.
I don’t like living in this small house with the dark rooms and the ghost of my grandpa. When I leave for school in the mornings I avoid the kitchen because I hate to see it in the light. At school, my friends ask me why I don’t bring them over. I tug on my jacket and say that we should play soccer after school.
Grandma? There is someone behind you. There is no more flour on the countertop. Turn around, Grandma. I’m going to turn the lights on now.
When I come home, I put my bag down by the front door and go pee in the bathroom. There is a large mirror, the only one in the house, and a mason jar that holds a comb, a toothbrush and humid Q-tips. The cotton sags around the stick. I would never put that in my ear. I stay sitting on the toilet seat and running my hands through the sleek part in my hair. I am too young to be losing it. At the roots, some grows white.
Like a ghost, I want to say.
I cannot leave my grandma. She bends over the table in the kitchen as though it is the only thing that keeps her from falling forward. I know Grandpa is there too, in the kitchen, and he weighs nothing but cannot keep her from bearing down. She is bent from tugging carrots out of the ground, and I want to help straighten her out. She could be tall. Even when she lies in her bed, she is crumpled.
At four in the afternoon, I run a bath. My grandpa’s body is broken in the dark small kitchen downstairs. Before I tell Grandma, I will wash him clean of raspberry jam.