Memories. So many. I wish I could erase them all. Then perhaps, I wouldn’t feel so much pain. This is what I think as I hug myself, staring at the starry night sky in front of me, millions of marigold petals creating a path across it, leading back to the mortal world. The bridges are alive, busy with those who are quite the opposite. I push my foot into the red sandstone ground I stand on, laughter echoing around me. It’s been 11 months and 8 days since the accident. I remember slipping into Mami’s beautiful black cashmere coat, not wanting to wear the hideous brown leather jacket I’d gotten. I fumbled with the buttons as I stumbled out into the chilly Pittsburgh street. I hurried down the sidewalk. Pittsburgh Novembers were usually cold, but that day, it was especially frigid. I dug my hands deep into the coat’s pockets and burrowed my nose into the collar of the coat. My steps were quick. Lively. Hurried. Completely oblivious to the fact they were dragging me closer to my last. I made it to the crosswalk, noticing that the pedestrian sign across the street had changed to the large red hand, commanding me to stay put. I rolled my eyes. There were no other early birds by this street. This was usually a busy area, people heading to work, getting to school, and such. I checked either side of the street before making the decision that would end my life. I placed a foot onto the crosswalk, my foot still half on the sidewalk, clinging desperately, as if I was on the edge of a plank, about to be pushed into a savage sea filled with ravenous sharks. But I stepped forward. I burst into a run, bolting across the street, wind whipping my hair around my face so that my vision was temporarily blocked for a few moments. Maybe that’s why I didn’t see the truck roaring towards me, the gas clouding the air, choking me up. I froze, my body stiffened. The truck rammed into me. I gasped as I flew through the air, the wind carrying me. I slammed onto the street, with full force, letting out a breath. My last. It was the impact they said. The force of the pavement, against me. I remember nothing after that. Cold. Dark. My eyes flew open. I was dressed in a white nightgown, my arms folded across my chest. I lay on a marble floor. Rose petals, like specs of blood, surrounded me. I took a breath. Stood. Closed my eyes. Opened them. I was in a marble hall. The rose petals continued down it. I first looked to my right. I heard crying. Mami. Papi. Emme. Isabella. Carlos. The hall stretched on for what seemed like miles. I saw a bright golden light at the end of it. I raced towards the light, my family’s voices swirling around me. But was thrown back. I hurled myself towards the right side of the hall again. Flung to the floor. I attempted this feat countless times, eventually stopping, my body aching from the falls I had taken against the marble floor. I curled into a ball, and cried, my hair falling into my face. Somehow I knew. I know I did. How could you not? Finally, I stood. I turned my head to the left side of the marble hall. At the end of it was another golden light. As I pushed myself up, rose petals slipped through my fingers. I took a tentative step towards the left side of the hall. As I did, I heard whispers, the rose petals rose off the floor, first just inches, then swirling above me, lifting me, pushing me, urging me onwards. I did not fight it. I did not resist. As the petals guided me towards the light, my family’s voices faded away. Mami’s wails, Papi’s sobs, Emme’s cries, Isabella’s weeping, and Carlos’s solemn words. All of it. The light at the end of the hall became so bright, so powerful, I was forced to shut my eyes. When I opened them again, I lay in a bed, still dressed in the same white nightgown. The bed was covered with marigold flowers, bright, like little pieces of sunlight I was in a lavish bedroom, velvet curtains and all, surrounded by hundreds of people. I screamed, clutching the soft white sheets. “No, no mija,” a woman with white hair tied back into a tight bun approached me. Her skin was honey brown, and her eyes reminded me of Mami’s. “Don’t cry.” I trembled. “Who are you?” Her eyes widened. “Your grandmother mija! Abuelita Imelda.” I stared at her, shaking my head. Abuelita Imelda? “Th-that’s impossible. You… you’re dead.” I looked around the room. Tio Jorge, my father’s brother, who’d died three years ago. Abuelo Ricardo, my grandfather. Cousin Maya, who’d lost her life in a plane crash. But that’s impossible. Unless…. Abuelita Imelda looked at me, her eyes watering. “I’m so sorry mija.” I felt the color drain from my face. I felt the goosebumps prick my skin. “No! No!” I screamed, sobbing into my hands. Abuelita Imelda bowed her head, a tear rolling through the small crevices the wrinkles on her face had created. She reached out to touch me, her hand caressing my forearm. Her thumb rubbed my hand gently. I felt nothing. I screamed again, my tears now running profusely down my face. My family all hang their heads, murmuring, chanting that my soul be granted safe passage and that I live in peace here. In The Land of the Dead. It was difficult. Abuelita Imelda stayed with me constantly. She said that the stage of fear, distress, and shock is very common when one dies. Or as she says, one’s soul passes on. After I recovered the best I could, Tio Jorge and Abuelo Ricardo showed me my new home. Though it was always nighttime here, it was so similar to the real world. But with none of the emotion or pureness. I’d lost my appetite, sense of touch, and a true sense of feeling, completely. Abuelita said I could still feel love, laughter, and pain. But in a different way. Now, 11 months and 8 days after the accident. I stood by the marigold petal bridges that led into the mortal world. To Mami, and Papi. To Emme, Isabella, and Carlos. How could I go? How could I face my family? Even though they couldn’t see me, I know they would feel my spirit. How could I look at my dear Mami’s face? Sweet Emme’s eyes? It was only for one night. Only on Dio de Los Muertos. Halloween. But I couldn’t. “Come mija,” Abuelita Imelda’s voice said gently. She placed a hand on my shoulder. I had never wished more that I could feel my grandmother’s reassuring touch. My family crowded around me, and together we stepped onto the bridge of petals. We walked across the bridge slowly. This was the only night a year we could see our families. Hundreds of other ghosts glided across the bridge, smiling, laughing, their delight flowing like sticky caramel and wrapping around us. As we reached the end of the bridge, I gasped. Abuelita squeezed my hand. I looked at her. How could I feel it? “The mortal world,” she whispered. I nodded, turning my gaze back to what lay before us. I placed a foot on the ground in front of me and closed my eyes. Opened them. And took the next step. I was there. Every year, Mami, Papi, Emme, Isabella, and Carlos come to Mexico for Dio de Los Muertos. The rest of our family lives there. We arrive in a graveyard. Hundreds of families sit by the tombstones of their loved ones, spreading marigold flowers on them. They have food, as offerings. The ghosts from The Land of The Dead crowd around their families. As we pass through the graveyard, an old woman touches a little girl’s head, “Oh she’s so big,” she says to the man beside her. These people are so happy to see their families. I swallow. As we exit the graveyard, I recognize the street my family turns on. Pequeno Pajaro Avenue. Little Bird Avenue. Several houses line this street. 112 Pequeno Pajaro Avenue. 115 Pequeno Pajaro Avenue. 117 Pequeno Pajaro Avenue. Home. I hear the voices before seeing whom they belong to. I stop outside the gates to the house. Mariachi music is playing, and Papi is playing his guitar. Mami is dancing with her sister, Tia Caterina. Isabella is sitting next to Tio Hernandez. Carlos is dancing with a pretty girl with dark hair, and Emme is strumming her own guitar next to Papi, singing with him. A tear falls down my cheeks. I step forward. I walk over to Carlos who is smiling at the dark-haired girl. Isabella is laughing at something Tio Hernandez said. And Emme, oh Emme. I remember her wanting to play the guitar so badly. Papi must have given in. Papi, my dear Papi. His eyes are alive with joy. Mami is smiling as she twirls with Tia Caterina. My cousins are running around, creating a riot. My dead family have already entered, and join our living family. Abuelo Ricardo is singing with Papi and Emme. Abuelita Imelda is dancing with Carlos, Tia Caterina, Mami and Carlos’s girlfriend. Cousin Maya is sitting with Isabella and Tio Hernandez. As I look around, I realize that family is forever. Nothing can change that. And I close my eyes and give in to the music.