I hate doing the wash when J travels.
Tonight, he’s in Barcelona, but as I sort the clean laundry, I find his socks, the t-shirt he wore on Monday, and a pair of his shorts. He’s on another continent, but the remnants of his weekend lie strewn across our bed.
I’m fascinated by what is left behind as people move about. Moving into a house, I find a full lint filter in the dryer – fibers from the clothing someone I’ve never met wore last week. It’s surprisingly intimate.
In one sense, I’m walking evidence that people can exit out of their lives, leaving little behind. I relocate, and few even remember me by the next full moon. However, I leave small pieces of myself everywhere I’ve been. Nail clippings, grocery lists in the library books, a neighbor who could never recall my name but five years from now will suddenly think of me while peeling garlic.
Hotel World, by Ali Smith, is about the remnants a person leaves in her wake. A girl plummets to her death in a hotel. What’s left? Her soul? Sort of. Her body? Also sort of. But there are others she’s bumped against who are left with the bits of her that she rubbed off onto them. Throughout most of the book, the reminders she left are subtle, but for those who were closer to her, they are jarring.
The book is, in my view, too aware of itself as a novel. I get tired of intentionally sophisticated writing sometimes. Perhaps I should say intensely stylized. However, the read is worth it for Smith’s sharp portrayal of the bits we leave behind.
It gave me something to think about while I sort the wash.