In the hotel bathroom, you take off your clothes as you unpack the bag that the airport mistakenly delivered to your room. Searching through the satchel, you find a bottle of Suave Fresh Mountain Strawberry shampoo, and you unbuckle your belt and let your pants fall to the floor. This asexual person who has also had the unfortunate luck of losing their luggage intrigues you. You stare at the man in the mirror as you wonder who they are, man or woman, where they’re traveling from, and to what or to whom.
You turn on the faucet and, standing in your boxers and button-up shirt, you splash cold water onto your face. As the icy droplets stream down your cheeks, you think of the “fresh mountain” where the strawberries in the shampoo have come from. Were they nurtured with the chilly water that ran down the cliffs? You think of the tender care your grandmother gave to her fruit and vegetable garden each summer where she also grew strawberries and rifle through the rest of the bag.
Among a few collared shirts, a pair of dress pants, and several pairs of boxers, you find a pair of black and white tye-dyed knee socks. The otherwise business apparel now confuses you. You used to have soccer socks like these when you played soccer and ran track in high school, and sometimes you would just wear them whenever. You remember how your grandmother was at every game, home or away. She used to wash your dirty, grass-stained uniforms and those smelly blue, green, and striped socks.
You pull your shirt over your head, ignoring the buttons. Then, at the bottom of the bag, you find a wad of brown paper taped up, so you unwrap it to find a shot glass. On one side, you see a kangaroo, and on the other, a koala. Underneath both, you read “Australia.” Your grandmother always wanted to go to Australia. You used to talk about it sometimes when you were a little kid. You’d look at the picture next to kangaroo in your children’s dictionary. You’d always ask if she’d get to see kangaroos in person, and she said one day you both would.
You hook your thumbs inside the elastic and push your shorts down to your feet. You turn on the shower, grab the strawberry shampoo, and step under scalding water. Then, you pour a glop of the pink liquid into the palm of your hand, rub it till you get suds, and start to massage your prematurely balding scalp. The hot water stings as your hands turn red and your head begins to itch. Since you have no body wash, and you don’t want to smell like the lily scented hotel hand soap, you squeeze shampoo onto a washcloth and rub your skin until it’s raw.
The airport lost your bag containing gentle, hypoallergenic toiletries and your suit. Oh well, your grandma loved strawberries, and she had to stop growing them when she found out you are allergic. You finish up in the shower, and get dressed in another man’s clothes. Your skin is red and shiny, but you smell like grandma as you open the door, descend three flights of stairs, and walk to the funeral home.
A man steps out of the elevator on your floor and walks to your door. At first he knocks, but then he leaves a note: “Mr. Kolowajts, I’ve searched and contacted everyone from your flight, but the only bag I can find that fits your description is the one I already delivered to you. Are you sure you didn’t fly with another piece of luggage, sir?”
Danielle Armstrong is a May 2012 graduate of Tusculum College. There she worked as a student and then assistant editor for The Tusculum Review. She has been accepted to attend the MFA Creative Writing in Fiction program at the University of Central Florida starting in fall 2012. Her nonfiction has appeared online at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and she has another short story in the forthcoming issue of Scissors and Spackle.