Simon is your nephew. For most of this weekend, you will find him sleeping, as usual, in the closet beneath the back stairs on a floor covered with empty bottles of whiskey and the notebooks where he has scrupulously recorded the many personal disasters he has experienced since middle school. He has been looking forward to seeing you again.
Bobby is your mother’s “man.” He is not your father, but Bobby is the one Mama loved. He still works in the produce section, and has never officially abandoned his dream of owning a Winnebago. But two years ago he started seeing Roberta on the side. Roberta is the one you left behind, and although she claims to be looking forward to seeing you she has already hired someone to rough you up in the airport.
Ruth is your aunt. She is outgoing and apparently very kind. But a bitter resentment lurks beneath her saccharine surface. This is the reason your father once referred to her as “our little powder keg of Europe.” She will be silently itching for you to ask how your 10-year vacation from Roberta has affected her life. She has stored up her resentment of you like so many cigarette coupons, like so many afternoons spent baby-sitting your practically orphaned children, like all those nights she spent plotting her escape.
Lyle is your sister Rita’s classmate from high school. He threw the javelin on the track team and spent the night of his senior prom dateless, huffing glue beneath the bleachers at the football field as your sister got hot and heavy with Reno the quarterback. Lyle spent the next two years writing love letters to Madonna and Debbie Gibson. He spent the two years after that learning how to be a produce clerk under the tutelage of Bobby, whose many benders Mama explains away with perfect devotion. Bobby has promised Lyle that he will see Rita again if he promises to assault you in the airport bathroom. Although he doesn’t want to, Lyle awaits you at gate D-9, his hand contemplating the brass knuckles inside his right pants pocket.
Guy is the name of the ER intern who will tend to you. He’ll tell your sister Rita that even though you’ve been pretty banged up you should be in decent shape for the big reunion. Although he doesn’t know it, Guy lives in the same apartment as your uncle Larry, the one with the big teeth and the love of music. As you sit in a lawn chair hopped up on painkillers, Uncle Larry will say to you, “What’s the matter, kid? Cat got your tongue?”