He felt like a sneak in his own house, opening his wife's top drawer and
rummaging through her things. In the ten years they had lived together in this
house, he had never opened this drawer. People had told him, though, that women
kept things, kept secrets, in their top drawers, in their lingerie drawers.
His wife was the sort of woman who kept an organized closet. Her business
suits occupied one area of the walk-in, the shirts arranged by color and season, the
pants on special hangers, the skirts on other special hangers. Even her bras had
special hangers. Her shoes were hooked by their heels on a rack, and her boots and
gym shoes were in cubicles. This was the wife he knew: capable, strong.
Her top drawer was messy. There was no organization at all, everything was
thrown in a jumble. It looked almost as if someone had gone through it already. He
looked over his shoulder as he pulled the drawer open further, expecting to see her
silhouette in the doorway, the sardonic look on her face. He couldn't do this with
his back to the door. He pulled the drawer all the way out and set it on the bed. That
seemed wrong. The gaping hole in her dresser stared at him and he couldn't stand
that either. He inserted the drawer back in its hole. Maybe he should make himself
more at home, he thought. He went to her vanity table, her old-fashioned affectation
with its mirrors and lights and delicate chair. He brought the chair to the drawer,
and perched on it like a great black-garbed vulture and dove his hands into the
His hands met soft, silky, filmy, lacey. Baffled, he pulled out two handfuls
and tossed them onto the bed. Black lace, red satin, purple silky, sheer teal, opaque
pale pink. He sorted through them gingerly. A thong, pink, edged in black lace.
Such a little bit of material. He picked up another bit of black lace between his
middle finger and his thumb, holding it out away from him, staring,
uncomprehending. He found long gloves. He found stockings topped in bowties. He
found a slippery bit of leopard print with so many black silky ties he wasn't sure it
was meant to be worn. Under all the silkiness he found leather and latex, some of it
held together by silver chains.
His wife didn't wear these things.
His wife wore normal cotton panties! She wore panty hose that pulled up to
her waist in mock suntan or navy or black. He looked back into the drawer,
wondering what else he'd missed. A few more pieces of lace lay on the bottom, and
a small black lacquered box with a scarlet Chinese symbol. He was only looking, he
had a right, he told himself. He opened the box. Two small silver balls nestled
within red velvet. The balls jingled slightly as his hand trembled. What was this
The light from the carefully organized closet cast his shadow on the wall
behind him. He stood at the foot of the bed, staring at the pile of silken colors and
beyond it at the severe closet. He didn't know the woman who'd worn these pretty
things. He knew a woman with sensible panties and serviceable bras. For whom did
she wear these pretty things, and where? With a sob, he scooped up a handful of
material and pressed it to his face. A faint smell of perfume lingered there, a
perfume his wife sometimes but rarely wore. He inhaled deeply. Who was this
woman? They'd been married 10 years and never in all that time had she ever worn
anything like this. For him. Who was this woman? Why did she have this drawer of
secrets? He savored the feel of the materials against his skin, the silky, the satiny,
the lacey. He put his hand inside a silvery-blue bit of sheer and admired the color
against his hand. What would it feel like to touch his wife while she wore this, he
wondered — her soft thighs in bowtie-topped stockings, her tummy beneath this
wine-colored bit of satin.
He rubbed his arms with the silky material, washing himself in it. He pulled
off his shirt the better to feel her silks against his skin. So soft. He dropped his
pants, he climbed on the bed and surrounded himself with a mound of softness.
What would it be like to see her in these bits of material? Ten years and he didn't
know. He pulled on a pair of the panties that looked like tiny shorts. They were
sheer navy. He looked for something navy to accompany, but his hand found a
shiny bit of white that looked like a shirt. He put it on, putting his arm through a
cut-out on the side before he found the armhole. It was tight across his shoulders
and short on his torso. He was sure on his wife it would skim her belly button. He
stroked the material, imagined her in it. He unrolled a bit of fishnet as he drew it up
his leg, a stocking. He stroked his leg through it. Who was this woman? Ten years.
He heard a sound in the hallway. Oh God! She was home! Frantically he
threw some of the pretty things in the open drawer. He heard the floorboard creak at
the top of the stairs, saw the shadow in the doorway. He drew the materials to him
to cover himself, looked up, his face flush.
His brother-in-law stared at him, open-mouthed. "I just," he said, choking on a
"Lee," his brother-in-law said, cleared his throat, tried again. "I thought you'd
be ready. Let me drive you to the funeral home, buddy. I think maybe you should
change your clothes."