Yesterday's Plumbing
KJ Hannah Greenberg
I pull Harriette’s plumber’s garb, a tattered red shirt and worn blue jeans, over my shivering body. Mother would not approve, even though, unlike Cousin Arnie, I don’t: surreptitiously dress in girdles and skirts, pin someone else’s locks to my head, or powder my nose and rouge my lips. There are no closed doors for me or parades in front of mirrors.
I do, however, repeatedly dress in my wife’s things. Some of them still smell like her vanilla-scented toilet water. At this point, though, our sheets and towels do not. Maybe, soon, I’ll launder our linens.
Harriette’s shirt and jeans are vital. I’d already eaten all of the leftovers she squirreled into plastic containers, no matter how rancid they were. I’d taped together all of the work documents she shredded, but left in the garbage. I cried over all of her unanswered emails and unreturned phone messages.
Arnie’s sister still calls weekly imploring me to take a vacation or see a shrink. I always reply that I’m busy writing code and will eventually get to such things. She doesn’t believe me.
I don’t believe me, either. Harriette’s makeup has spoiled. Her library books now feature a patina of dust. I’m still searching, nonetheless, for life before her passing. If my ongoing grief makes me deviant, like a motorcycle gang member or a Confederate soldier, then pass me a helmet and a dark blue jacket. Just let me wear Harriette’s flannel shirt and jeans next to my skin.


First published: February, 2014
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