That year, the year his wife died of mesothelioma, her catalogues kept coming in the mail. Sometimes as many as several a day, thick and glossy and kinetic with color, as if fevered with their own bounty. The Bombay Company, Ikea, Abercrombie and Fitch. At first he tried to pay them little mind, tossing them in the kitchen garbage, burying them under beer bottles and grapefruit rinds so his eye wouldn't catch them later on. Yet, for every catalogue he threw out, another would arrive, and there her name would be, in Times New Roman or Courier New.
Afternoons he grew nervous when he heard the mail truck, the tires on the wet gravel, the shunk of the mailbox door. He thought of approaching the postman, a harried widower himself, but through the curtains of the upstairs study he sometimes saw the man's face, the hard dark squint of his eyes, the peeved set of his mouth, so he kept away. Before, he'd always marveled at the mailman's bitterness, but now he understood. That toll free phone call the other day, for instance. Who, for God's sake, needed a catalogue for only Icelandic wool sweaters? When he told the woman he wanted to be taken off the mailing list, as in stat, she told him that there was no instantaneous in the catalogue business, and what was the emergency anyway? "Because you don't make any sweaters in size dead," he said, startling himself.
But on certain occasions such as this, when the house is surrounded in snow-swaddled silence, long after the daily check-in calls from his friends and family have ceased, he flips through the catalogues at his desk, late-night brandy burning in his chest. The silky paper beneath his fingers, so like her skin when he slicked her shoulders with suntan lotion long ago, and that smell of vanilla and lavender and nutmeg when he tips his nose closer, so familiar he can't help but think, My god, Charlotte, is that you?