The waves of heat in the attic are almost too much for the two Californians.
Mountains of dusty, empty boxes cascade down the stairs. Cookie tins in a high kitchen cabinet are almost kept, then tossed. A faded poster board Christmas tree I made the year we were in Taiwan and couldn’t buy a tree, tossed.
We cough and hold the dusty stacks away from us as we carry them out to the garbage, sweat trailing streaks on our faces.
My sister and I tiptoe in our exposed feet and legs through what we know used to be poison ivy, but neither of us can recognize it anymore.
The pocket doors between the living and dining rooms still only pull out halfway, because of the buckling wooden floor. My brother frames himself between them.
“I never knew those were there,” says my sister-in-law. “All those years.”
“Yeah, I used to love to play with them,” I say.
“You probably wanted to see if you could squish your little brother between them,” says my brother.
“No doubt,” I say. “Well, I got it in my own turn.”
“I don’t remember getting physical, per se,” says my sister.
“You didn’t need to,” I say.
We all cough hilariously, till our eyes water, from the dust of our mutual torture blowing up from the cracks in this house.
It’s empty now, empty and sold. Our white shirts are only a little smudged. We were careful, and it’ll wash out.