First take off your shoes. The carpet is white; it shows every footprint, every pass of the vacuum cleaner. This is why kids are not allowed in here. This is why we do not use this room.
Take a dust-rag – one of Dad’s old undershirts – and spray it with lemon Pledge. Wrinkle your nose at the smell. Survey the landscape: curios collected from places she has been or always wanted to visit. The jade Buddha. The brass cricket cage. The black lacquer bowl. The Russian spoons.
Lift them one by one, starting with the Buddha. Weigh it in your hand. Memorize the mark it leaves behind on the coffee table, its footprint in the dust. Fix it in your mind, this spot. Remember the shape, the angle. Try not to think of the dust, of what it’s made of. (Hair follicles. Skin cells. Cigarette ash. Mites.) Wipe it away, carefully, drawing the rag around the edges of the empty places. Set down the jade Buddha (the brass cricket cage, the black lacquer bowl, the Russian spoon) precisely where it had been, as if it had never been moved. The arrangement is important.
Move to the piano, black lacquer like the bowl, the spoons, the arms of the Oriental-style chairs and the screen with the jade inlays. Black and white, this room, except where the dust has settled. Wipe down the three wooden monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) and the dust at their feet and place them – again – where they have always been, sitting on their haunches and minding their own business, not judging.
Thirty minutes is all it takes. Thirty minutes to make it perfect. Toss the rag in the laundry and try not to think of the dust, how even now, it is gathering on every surface.