Junk Drawers

To watch an old husband sleep is one of the small glories of a long marriage, with its vague definition of who I am, but I slip away without waking him, because of a dream. Dark mornings pull me back in unmarked time to houses and rooms that are now apartment buildings or strip malls or even empty fields, which doesn't matter, perfect words being beside the point.

I dig through layers for something that is not beside the point, like digging through the junk drawer for the demitasse spoon that returned to me in the dream, the dream beside the point, the spoon remaining. I know it's in the drawer somewhere. I try to dig quietly through old keys and nail clippers, a screwdriver and a magnifying glass ― detritus, and its tendency to clatter.

I first found that spoon in Aunt Mimi's junk drawer. I was 5 or 6 or 7. I had never seen such a small spoon, flowers in dark tarnish. I don't know how I got it. She may have given it to me. Surely I would remember the moment of such a gift.

And now my fingers are still.

I am digging through layers of hands handing me rosary beads and seashells, a pillbox with a mosaic lid, Aunt Mimi's wedding ring, and even my own wedding ring, definitions of who I am and who I've been ― things, and their tendency to matter.

I am standing in a kitchen, tile floor cold under my bare feet, junk drawer open, husband standing on the stairs in the blue plaid robe I gave him for Christmas the year we lived in the downstairs apartment on Carmen Street. Every time we turned on the heat the lights went out. He blinks at me in the dim light of this morning, drawing the robe tight.