As soon as I stepped into the house, the scent of bleach filled my nostrils. Ben was sitting on the couch watching television.
“Did you clean something with bleach?” I asked.
“Bleach? No, why do you ask?”
“Because it smells like bleach in here,” I said, but he was immersed in his show.
I’ve learned to listen to my little voice when things don’t seem right. I went to each room looking for the source of the smell. I opened garbage cans to see if I’d thrown out rags that might still bear the scent. I checked the inside of the dishwasher (I don’t know why; it just seemed like the thing to do.) Finally, I gave up.
The next day while doing laundry, I laid a black, fleece sweater on the dryer to be washed with dark colors. I noticed the top of the dryer was wet and when I looked more closely, I saw a small pool of clear liquid. I picked up my sweater and held it up to my nose: Definitely bleach
I put my sweater in the sink and opened the cupboard above the dryer. That’s where we keep cleaning products – including a brand new bottle of bleach. The cupboard shelf was soaked and the fumes stung my eyes. I put all the cupboard contents in a laundry basket and set it outside. When I came back, Ben joined me.
“I dropped the bleach bottle yesterday, but it looked OK, so I put it back in the cupboard,” he said. Fair enough. I hadn’t seen any signs of a crack in the bottle either.
I finished cleaning, including the inside of the washing machine in case traces of bleach were waiting to tie-dye our clothes, then went onto other chores. That’s when I made a fatal or fortuitous mistake, depending on how you look at things: I left the sweater in the sink.
When I came back to throw out the bleach-soaked sweater, it wasn’t in the sink. Slowly, I turned toward the basket on the floor of clothing to be washed. There it was, sitting on top of a pair of dark-wash jeans that now had splotches of bright white. Two pairs of work trousers, a crimson blouse, a royal blue sweater and another pair of jeans met the same fate. In one foul swoop, a good chunk of my wardrobe had been wiped out.
“I left the sweater in the sink to make sure it didn’t contaminate the other clothes,” I told Ben. I wasn’t angry, just disappointed because two of the items were favourites. He peered at the big, unnaturally white splashes of white in haphazard patterns on my clothes and said, “Oh, sorry, I’ll buy you new stuff.”
I smiled and turned away. Who says old favourites can’t be replaced with new ones?