Even clothes of varying shapes should fit neatly on top of the pile. You do this through immaculate folding, so that a button-down takes on the same area squared as a pair of corduroys, and all of our Peter Pan collars spread flat beneath a man’s bulky knit sweater.
When he’s been home so late night after night, the clothes can feel like tea leaves. This shirt’s sweat stain is on his side, this shirt’s remoulade stain is not. Martinis do not stain and he is lucky for that, though he probably doesn’t even know it, accustomed as he is to peeling a shirt off, throwing it into a hamper and putting it on again, clean.
The pile shakes as you slap down each folded shirt, towel, pantleg, furiously folding and dizzy from illness. You reach from the heap to grow the pile. You can still fold our clothes. Cancer isn’t contagious so there’s no risk of infection.
From the heap comes a Barbie’s dress, carelessly tossed into the dirty clothes. I’m guilty as it sparkles, the way only hers can. You hold it in your hand, letting its fabric catch the light. Admiring it in a way, the briefest smile. You turn to me and say, “Gosh, the woman your father is sleeping with sure is small,” then slap the dress onto the pile to join all of our other clothes.
- Jeanie Riess is a writer from New Orleans. She has written for The Oxford American, Smithsonian, The New Republic and others.