Julie L Scharf
I found his sock underneath my bed a few weeks after we broke up.
Any rational person would have disposed of the thing. Not given it a second thought.
I took the sock and, at first, smelled the edge of it (not the part where his foot would have been; that would have been disgusting). I could smell the faint, gentle scent of his laundry detergent. It took me back to all of those embraces, those soft shirts with that very scent, how he used to hold me close for hours, our hands clasped together, his breath close to my face, his arm around me, lying here, in my bed, so many days, so many evenings. He never wore cologne, and I never asked why, because his natural scent was enough when I was near him. Oh God, that scent. It was faint, but still there.
Did he mean to leave this behind? Before, he’d left things like his watch, or his phone, or even his wallet. He’d gifted me with greeting cards, burned CDs for my birthday that still lingered in my player, but a sock? Why would he leave a sock behind intentionally? There were many things he could have left behind on purpose, something more romantic, or creative. If he did mean to leave it behind, it was clever. Before, I would find things he’d leave behind just to call on me: his phone, watch, even his wallet, once. So it would be very clever to plant an unknown sock underneath my bed, and not obvious, either. Not obvious in the way that someone would find it and know you left it there on purpose. No, this was too clever, an innocent sock.
Should I save it? Call him? “Hello, D, how are you? Oh, the reason I’m calling? Yes. You left your sock underneath my bed. Would you like it back?” I’d given up trying to contact him. Did it even matter if it was intentional or not?
I walked over to my desk, sock still in hand, and opened the bottom drawer where I kept all the greeting cards he’d sent to me. I went through them quickly, not wanting to open them again: birthday, Christmas, my trip to Maine, Valentine’s Day. I would get rid of all of it with his sock. I would have nothing more to do with him.
I closed the drawer, and, without thinking, opened the card from Valentine’s Day. “My love,” it began. I couldn’t do it. I opened the drawer and placed the cards back. Then, I took the sock and put it near a small basket near the corner of my bedroom. Perhaps he knew it was here. He must have known he’d left it behind. How could you put on your shoes without knowing you are missing a sock?
He probably just forgot it.
I wasn’t that coy, however, with him; I left behind a red, satin nightgown. I had left it behind intentionally.
It was a beautiful, deep burgundy red nightgown, with lace down the middle of the back, lace tied into shoestrings of more satin that begged to be undone. I’d purchased it following my stay in Maine, after we hadn’t seen one another for over two weeks. We went to dinner that evening and I gave it to him as a gift during dinner, wrapped in tissue with a black bow.
He took me back to his place, and I tried it on in front of him. We spent the entire evening in his bedroom making love until we both could no longer stay awake. We fell asleep, together, the nightgown on my body the entire evening.
That morning, he woke up early. He whispered into my ear that he loved me, gently kissing me on the forehead. Then, he kissed me goodbye, and told me to lock his door behind me. About an hour later, I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I got up, showered, and dressed in my clothing from the night before. When I returned to the bedroom, the bed was still undone, and my red nightgown was sitting on the edge of his bed.
What the hell, I thought. The nightgown drove him crazy, and I knew it. I made up his bed and spread the nightgown across the edge, pulled on my boots, grabbed my purse, and walked out the door, locking it behind me.
Three days later, my telephone rang.
“You left something here,” he began.
I had no idea what he would do with it while I wasn’t there, but it intrigued me to think about it.
“Oh, I did,” I said. “Should I come over and get it?”
“No. I’ll keep it.”
“Why would you want to keep it?” I was more intrigued. This was fun.
“Why would I want to give this back? And think of you wearing it for someone else?” he teased.
Why would I wear it for someone else? When you buy something like that for another person, there’s a hidden rule that you are not supposed to wear it for another person. Personal items, like lingerie, perfume, and dresses are hands-off to the next partner. Of course I was thinking all of this when I left the nightgown behind, because, after all, it belonged with him. How could it belong to someone else?
We spoke for a while and made plans to get together again that weekend. The subject of the nightgown never arose again, however, with the exception that he assured me it was in “safe keeping”.
I never saw the red nightgown again. He broke it off about three weeks later, claiming he was in a financial crisis in his life and could not see himself devoting any more time to a relationship. I was devastated. Crushed. As though the red nightgown was my very heart left in his possession.
I left the sock in the corner of my bedroom for two days. Every so often, I would glance at it when I’d walk by, wondering what in the world I would do with it, and why I was keeping it in the first place.
I thought of mailing it to him. Of burning it. Tearing it up. Creating a sock puppet out of it. Yes, that’s it, a sock puppet, one that could tell me why our relationship ended so abruptly. I thought I was over him. Such an insignificant token left behind. But there it was. Innocent, unknown, placed there and forgotten.
That evening, strangely, I received an email from him. I hadn’t heard from him since our last phone call weeks ago when he proceeded to break it off. Had he somehow sensed I found his sock under my bed? Conceivably had he installed a signal finder on it, some way to know that it was no longer sitting, unknown, under there?
It was a response to the email I sent to him a day after our last correspondence. In my email, I asked him to explain why he wanted to break it off so abruptly. I wanted answers. Now, weeks later, and after finding his sock, here was my response. It was a half poem, half letter:
I gave you as much as I could for as long as I could ‘till I was empty.
Wonderful things are coming for you
maybe together - maybe apart
Don´t know - can´t see
Doesn´t matter - it will be what it is supposed to be
Thank you. -D
He didn’t mention the nightgown, or the sock. He didn’t say he missed me, or that he wanted to see me. I looked over at the sock in the corner of my bedroom.
Perhaps he did mean to leave the sock. He knew it would drive me crazy, and that it would remind me of him. And now he’s writing this cryptic email, knowing that damn sock is in the corner of my bedroom.
How could I respond? I could reply and tell him off via email. Tell him that I don’t need this drama in my life, and that if he wanted to see me, he should say so, not wait so long to respond to an old inquiry about our relationship. I wanted to call him and tell him to grow up. Tell him that I didn’t need to sit around and wait for him to call me, write to me, or acknowledge me. That yes, I do have your sock, and you can have it back. Put a sock in it, and leave me alone.
Then, just as quickly, the emotions changed. I wanted to hit respond and tell him how much I love him, how I wanted to be with him again, and that I missed our friendship. I looked over at the sock. “Your sock is here,” I could say, “I would love for you to come over and get it.”
What was the use? He didn’t want me, that was obvious, and this email was likely some drunken attempt to respond to something that had long since been answered without words through his non-response.
It was over. There really was no reason to respond to this email. I thought about simply deleting it. Once again, my attention turned to the sock.
Rising from the chair near my desk, I walked over to the sock. I picked it up, again, and walked back to my computer. I sat down and placed the sock in front of me. Hitting the reply button, I wrote:
I found your sock underneath my bed.
I closed my email, took the sock, opened the drawer with the cards, and pulled them out. I closed the drawer and walked out of my room. Walking to the kitchen, I opened the bottom cabinet and took out a large, deep saucepan. I placed the sock and cards inside of it and took it outside on the porch with a box of matches. Striking the match, I lit the first card. The rest of it caught in the saucepan, and within seconds, all that he’d left behind was engulfed in red, thick flames.
He got to keep the red nightgown.