My mom called me the other day. She’s down in California, taking care of my Auntie P. She left the day after I got back to Seattle.
“I can tell you were here,” my mom said, and I could almost hear her smiling at the other end of the line.
“How?” I asked.
“I can just tell. You’ve left your signature. I opened up the cutlery drawer, and looked at how things were organized, and I thought, ‘Geraldine was here.'”
I can only assume she noticed this because I, apparently unlike everyone else in my family, puts knives with the blades pointing down. But her observation made me smile.
It’s funny how leave our mark, wherever we go. Even in hotel rooms. For me, everything is always meticulously organized, except for my jewelry and toiletries, which are scattered across the largest horizontal surface I can find. Just like at home.
I noticed the phenomenon when I went to my mom’s house last week. My uncle is visiting from Italy, and I saw the way his cologne and toiletries were neatly arranged on the counter. I remember when I was a little kid and he and his family would come visit, and it was so exciting to see him lay out his things and know that, for a least a little while, he was here.
Sometimes someone’s presence is so strong, you can still feel it after they’ve gone. A subtle change in the air tells you that, just moments ago, they were sitting here, drinking coffee or finishing their breakfast before running out the door. When Rand leaves in the early hours of the morning for a flight, I’ll wake up a few hours later, and it will take me a while before I realize he’s really not home. The house will be unusually still, but I’ll find an errant cufflink or collar stay on the counter, a stack of business cards on his desk, a cereal bowl near the sink. Little things that tell me, not long ago, he was here, and here, and there.
Last March, Rand and I took a weekend trip to Iceland.
I’m going to pause a minute to let the craziness of that idea sink in. A weekend. In Iceland. Don’t ask how these things happen.
And because of some mistakes made while booking the tickets (I’m not pointing fingers … but if I were one would be aimed directly at my husband), Rand ended up leaving the day before me. I flew out the next day, and the trip was ridiculous: transferring planes in Boston (where I sat next to a kid who, in retrospect, probably had TB), completing 14 hours of flying time, then hopping on a huge bus which took me to a teeny tiny station, at which point I hopped on a shuttle that finally ended up at our hotel (though there was a point in which I distinctly doubted that would happen).
I didn’t know where I was, or what time it was, or even how to pronounce the name of my hotel. But a key was waiting for me at the front desk, and when I got into my room, Rand wasn’t there, but his things were, neatly arranged like always. Halfway across the world, and everything was familiar to me: shoes in a row along the wall, suits hanging in the closet, contact lens solution and glasses lined up in the bathroom. I smiled when I spotted his light blue suitcase – it was like seeing an old friend. And near his laptop, an assortment of snacks left for me.
I scattered my toiletries and jewelry across an empty shelf, and was eating the Icelandic equivalent of Bugles when Rand called up to the room.
“I left you some snacks,” he said.
“Found them.” I managed to say, through a mouthful of Ice-Bugles.
“I’ll be back there in a little bit,” he said.
And I smiled, thinking that he had never really left.