I wasn’t prepared that Audrey would recognize your suitcase right away, but as soon as she got back from the library class with grandma and grandpa, she seemed delighted to see it standing there in our room.
“Appa! Appa!” she said patting it enthusiastically. She definitely thought you were home. I went into one of my trances- the ones where your gaze gets fixed and you can’t undo it- then my chest gets cold and I get the sensation of my milk letting down when I was nursing.
After she went down for her nap, a very brave friend, familiar with grief, sat with me while I turned the suitcase down flat on the rug, unzipped it carefully, and opened one of the compartments on one half of the case.
“Oh Dan,” I said. I unfolded the clothes one by one. I wept quietly.
But the unexpected thing was that the clothes were all wet or damp and smelled horrible- musty and almost like a fire that’d been put out with dirty sea water. Did he drown carrying his whole suitcase? What happened? I have no idea.
But it surprised me and in a strange way helped. Only on one item did I smell even a remnant of him. So I put the heavy, soggy, clothes in our laundry basket. When Audrey woke up, I threw one load in, then another. I hear them now as I write. The chug chug chug of the washer, and the clink clink clink of a button or zipper in the dryer. It feels like I’m just getting them ready for you though. And I will have them freshly washed for when you return home.