Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Home Exchange

When you live for a little while in someone else’s home, you think: how can they live like this? With the plates and bowls piled up together and a dozen pots but a single lid, and the misshapen cheese knife, and the bric-a-brac drawer with the rubber bands and the roll of freezer bags and one cardboard-and-plastic package, rent open, contents gone. There’s an old jam jar on the counter with what appears to be a thin layer of little pink plastic flower petals at the bottom. There’s a shaker bottle of thyme right beside the stove, as though it’s their favorite spice: does everything get thyme? Steak and thyme, rice and thyme, eggs and thyme. The dishwasher gloves are out of reach.

In the bathroom the soap is flavored with milk and honey. The linen closet’s in the study. In the master bedroom, one side has a table and the other doesn’t. Who decides to live this life?

There’s a tiny stereo in the living room; the speakers, not far apart, point nowhere in particular. There are CDs piled up on a shelf in another room, unalphabetized—REM, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. Tracy Chapman. Bob Marley. Who are these people?

The answer of course is they are us. We live like this. We’re now momentarily caught in a mirror world, and the odder it seems the more certain we can be that the mirror is true.