There are only a few victories in the abode quite as satisfying as seeing the bottom of a laundry basket. I hadn't seen the bottom of my own for five weeks, maybe six. And yet, when I finally reached the shiny blue plastic of triumph over task, I could not celebrate. There, in the bottom of the basket, lay two thin plastic collar stays. His.
All I had to do was reach in, grab them, and throw them away, and they would be gone, forever. The finality of that action was more than I could bear, so I plucked them up and brought them to the kitchen table instead. There I sat, contemplating them.
I turned the stays over in my hands, studying them intently. My eyes wandered to my fingers, which looked as though there were some sort of ban on hand cream. The small hands that held those collar stays had somehow become worn and creased through a process that I could not consciously remember. Then I noticed the softer, pale mark that three years of wearing wedding jewelry had left around my ring finger. Three years of dishes and laundry and cooking, three years of pulling the stays out before the wash cycle and pushing them back in after the hot tumble dry. Three years of respectable marriage, and then, a note in a solitary winter coat hung in the hall closet: "I love someone else now." And nothing else. The shirts were all gone, and the ties and suits. No time for arguing. No time for the little legalities. The car was gone too.
I drew the plastic stays closer to my eyes, examining them in the light for something, for any kind of answers. Then I got a whiff of them: even after all this time, they smelled like what it smelled like to press my face into his neck when we made love. But there were other odors, too. Perfume, mine. Perfume, not mine. Toxic, all.
I hurled the collar stays at the table, where they clattered like slides of old vacation photos. I pushed my chair away from the table and got up to fold the clothes.