Every Little Thing
I showered in the basement yesterday.
The gleaming white, guest bathroom with the top shelf shampoo.
Two guys in hazmats suits focused on coils and venting percentages of our a/c unit just outside the master bathroom. The annual wellness check made more critical in our global house arrest. Imagine adding unabating heat to the already glowing embers of our mental edge.
Our guest bathroom is perfection. The crown jewel of the guest suite that came with the house. “We didn’t design it,” I reply to inevitable compliments. “But we still paid for it,” my husband jokingly adds.
The serviceable bedroom attached manages to have a window despite being underground, and a kitchenette most famous for a free-standing ice machine replete with restaurant-grade ice pellets. We are prepped for the inevitable underage margaritas. The future is full of promise.
I stepped into the flow of the unfamiliar showerhead admiring the flawless, unstained grout. An there they were — two bottles. Her fancy shampoo. Her fancy conditioner.
A few times as kids the oversized, generic bottle intended to lather six little heads, morphed wordlessly into a recycled gallon milk jug with watered down green gel suspiciously akin to the dish soap in the kitchen sink. Gifting us scarecrow-like hair and incredible bubbles for the tub.
Then once, when I was in college, and still making the effort my “Rachel” haircut required, I snuck into my parent’s bathroom to borrow a hair drier. My newly formed feminist foot paused mid-fall when I saw them: shiny silver bottles only available in salons.
Symbols of self-centeredness, indulgence, and financial security previously impossible to foster in a house full of teens with no respect for hers/mine/ours.
Top shelf shampoo.
I clutched the ancient hair drier in a hug I could never give her, unable to make sense of the tears that pricked at the lifelong challenge of finding worth.
I intentionally pumped the sliver liquid into my palm surprised to find the bottles close to empty. Of course, there were other guests. Siblings, and in-laws and overnight guests. Everyone wanted and welcome.
But honestly, it was all for her.
I towel off in the plush, oversized, overpriced towels I went to two stores to find. The small shells from her beach decorating the back of the toilet. The above-average thread count of the barely used sheets. The small basket with the extra mohair blanket at the foot of the bed.
And I can feel the teapot in the kitchen area. Blue instead of yellow. She prefers blue. Preferred. She preferred blue.
And shortbread cookies bought at T.J. Maxx. It’s one thing to high-end hair care, but no reason to pay department store prices for tea cookies when her favorite home store sells packs that are slightly crinkled, but just as good. Had she taught me nothing?
I wonder if I will ever throw them away.
My locked elbows hold me steady over the sink. Dressed and damp. Deep breaths. I did this to myself. I knew what I was doing.
I smell her everywhere. I am her smell.
Grief is the lack of air in my lungs. It will unsteady me many times during the day, as I absentmindedly wind and unwind my too-long hair into messy buns and ponytails.
The recent scent of a lifelong love.
The ordinary haunts my basement.
And today I will stay on the first floor.