Hanging a load of whites should have been a safe task, in spite of the accumulated heap awaiting the first bit of sun I had seen in days. I counted off each clothespin as I clipped consecutive washcloths, end-to-end; eleven in all. And then dish towels; still stained but clean to me. Bath towels next, trying to keep them from wrapping around me as a stiff breeze took control of three corners. Next row: cotton panties and a series of socks; anklets first and then knee-hi’s, each beside its mate. Finally, one last peculiar wad of cloth.
Distracted by the swoop of a barn swallow, I followed its ascent to the telephone wire overhead, amused at how the string of them, perched evenly between posts, resembled my weatherworn clothespins. I smiled, glad that I remembered how, and reached for that last bit of laundry. I didn’t recognize the T-shirt until I shook it out.
Damp. Clean—no, sterile. Not a trace of the man who wore it, and would never wear it again. I had desecrated the last bit of him, bleached out his scent, traded his sweat—the odor of wood shavings and freshly cut grass—for the smell of sunshine and warm breezes and I could not catch my breath over what I had done.
(I asked my husband if he thought I should change this from first person to third so that readers wouldn't think he died or something, and he said, "Nah—leave it as it is. Third person would ruin the intensity, doncha think?")