I moved some of my clothes into Robert’s dresser. As soon as I emptied out his drawers – and it took months to do so – but after I did it, there was this vacuum effect that sucked me in to the empty space and I was swept up in the intense satisfaction of spreading out and reorganizing my clothes. It felt great. And then I felt guilty for feeling great. It was as if my enthusiasm somehow communicated: ‘Yay, he’s dead, more space for me!’
My husband was a clotheshorse, he had two dressers to my one; he had a double-barred closet to my single rod of clothes. On vacations, the ticket agents at the airports would flag his suitcase with one of those big red “Heavy” tags (the Scarlet Letter of luggage), his zippers straining at the seams, while my duffel bag’s dimples hinted of roominess within. But now all the drawers and closets are mine. It took me seven months before I could go through his clothes. Even after all that time, there was the smell of Robert, the good and the bad: the scent of Ralph Lauren cologne, and a whiff of Scotch. Going through a dead man’s clothes is sad and creepy. Because the person is gone, you view each article of clothing differently: a suit jacket hanging unanimated and lifeless on the hanger, dormant sleeves with no arms or hands; trouser pants that won’t walk; faded jeans soft with wear, creased to fit the body that’s no longer there. There’s never a ‘good’ time to go through the deceased’s clothes. It’s different for everyone. What finally pushed you to do it?