Not for the first time, and neither for the last time I left a used, wadded up tissue in the pockets of my jeans. That load of dark laundry emerged with a sprinkling of clingy, fluffly confetti of outstanding whiteness. Sigh.

It’s allergy season, and since I don’t believe in taking any medication to suppress the symptoms, I used a lot of tissue paper to blow my nose. Now I think I should use handkerchiefs instead, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. Although nowadays people think using a handkerchief is ‘unhygienic’ (“Ugh, all that snot just gets trapped there”), at least it would save me from having to pick little bits of shredded tissue paper from all my clothes when I forgot to empty out my pockets before laundry.

My dad never gave up using handkerchiefs. When I was a kid, I would pick his handkerchiefs out of the pile to iron first. They were the easiest thing to iron; a plain square, no collars, sleeves or seams to align. Now when he visits, I toss his hankies into the washer and dryer and just fold them without ironing. But just seeing him use them makes me feel quaintly retro. Likewise, his brother-in-law, a long-time Silicon Valley denizen, was looking forward to his first visit to Shanghai in years, so he could stock up on handkerchiefs. “His hankies are so old, they have holes in them, but he can’t throw them out until he gets new ones,” explained my aunt.

What plot device would Shakespeare have used for Othello, if Othello had come across a used Kleenex that could have been dropped by anybody?


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