The one and only time I attended my cousin’s stepdad’s third of July party I learned that it was exactly as debaucherous as everyone had been saying it was for years. And despite the prevailing opinion, it wasn’t for being a prude that I had never attended. It was just always something. Some years I’d been away, other years busy, others without transportation to the remote lakeside location. I’d been absent so much that it was my presence that turned heads that warm afternoon.
I showed up empty handed save a fold-up lawn chair that I plunked down next to my cousin Mike’s wife, the only attendee who had waved at me. Beside her was her daughter, a cousin of mine that I barely knew, and her son, who I’d forgotten existed. My cousin Rob’s wife was having a beer under the food tent with someone I didn’t recognize, while her children ran wildly through the mud. There were a spattering of other familiar faces, but only passingly so, and no one that I thought I could strike up a conversation with. At that point I was unemployed, recently moved, and engaged to someone they’d never met, so there weren’t a whole lot of talking points that would take us very far. As I was reconsidering my attendance, cousin Lindsay showed up.
She and I were about 10 years apart in age, but we were closer than me and her older sister. We caught each other up on our lives relatively quickly , but it was obvious she was scanning the party for someone else. I had no idea who until cousin Jason showed up and Lindsay’s whole demeanor changed. Where she had been bubbly, she was now stealthy. He walked up to us and they talked in hushed voices, a step away from me, eyeing the break in the bushes that led to the place where the cars were parked. Oh my goodness they’re going to steal a car, I thought, because that’s what cousin Rob would have whispered to me about in our youth. Instead, as they walked off together, I saw Jason pull a small pouch from his pocket. Whew, I thought, they’re just going to smoke. Bad, but could be worse. In condolence to myself, I went to get a beer.