I think I might've written about this before, but I had decided to give Proactiv a try for my skin not long before A died. The package arrived a couple days after I found out he'd passed and sat on my desk for awhile. I don't know how long; my sense of time during that period is slippery, if not nonexistent. I started using it eventually. My skin started looking pretty good, but I didn't know if it was the stuff I was putting on it, or the fact that no other chemicals beyond soap were touching my face--no hair goop, no makeup, nothing. I was lucky to be showered and dressed most days.
Time passed, and I stopped using the stuff, because it had not only stopped working, but seemed to be making my skin worse. So I tossed most of it out, but kept one open bottle of cleanser. Just in case I changed my mind.
Long after A had died maybe a year, or even two...it's all so foggy now...I decided to use that bottle. As soon as I had the cleanser on my face, I knew it had been a mistake: the scent of it brought me right back to those early days of grief, the days when I cried until I couldn't breathe in the shower, a place where privacy and the running water protected both me and E from my endless, body-wracking tears. It was like a physical blow, and I reeled. Once I was almost steady, I washed the stuff off my face and literally threw the bottle in the trash from the shower.
There were still a couple of sealed boxes in the cabinet, and I knew then I would never use them again, so I brought them to work and left them there for anyone who wanted them to have. And that was the end of it, I thought.
And then tonight, I decided I was finally going to straighten out my cabinet in the bathroom, spurred by my efforts to put together some travel stuff for my run up north tomorrow. Apparently, I had not thrown all the Proactiv stuff away; there was one bottle of the zit cream still in there. And just seeing it nearly launched me into a panic attack: my chest tightened, and my breathing was shallow, and I just wanted to get away from it. I threw it into the garbage bag quickly, and now I know that there isn't any more to surprise me down the line.
Sometimes it's a scent; sometimes it's the weather; recently it was being in my mom's new apartment building. Bodies have their own memories, tied viscerally into our consciousness. If I could be totally academic about it, it would be fascinating that the sight of a small plastic bottle I had long since forgotten I had could have that kind of effect on me. And I guess it is. But it is also shocking to realize how much I am at the mercy of such small things, deceptively dangerous as they are.