On a hazy summer afternoon in Los Angeles, while my wife was at work and our children were napping, I answered the ringing doorbell to find my grandmother, two months dead, standing on the stoop. She gave me a happy smile and then turned and waved to a black car with dark windows that purred at the curb. The car pulled away.
“Liliana,” I said.
“Darling!” she said.
She reached for my face, so I bent to be kissed, thinking that the woman I was kissing should be dead, her ashes sealed in an expensive vault. But her lips on my cheek were warm, and she smelled like her old perfume and new wool.
“Are you going to ask me in?” she asked.
I stepped back from the door, and she clicked past me on high heels, carrying a small black handbag. She looked great for eighty-seven, let alone for being dead. Her blond hair still seemed plausible, and she held her face in the alert, wide-eyed attitude in which it looked youngest. Under her coat she wore a black cocktail dress, as if she had come from her own funeral. But there had been no service, yet.
She stopped in the living room. “So this is how you live,” she said, surveying the piles of half-read newspapers, the children’s jackets hanging on doorknobs, the stain from a wet glass on the leather couch. She spun to face me, then dropped into the big yellow chair.
“I’m very tired,” she said. “They lost my bags.”
“Do you know what they’re saying about you?”
“It’s all a mistake,” she said.
I nodded, and thought about what that might mean. “But,” I said, “there was an autopsy.” I didn’t want to offend her, and here she was, but there had been an autopsy.
“Some lemonade would be nice,” my grandmother said.
I went to the kitchen for a glass of cranberry juice, which was what I had besides the kids’ boxes of Juicy Juice, and when I returned, Liliana had taken her shoes off. The way she took the glass and drained it seemed very corporeal.