I held on to a pair, a favorite, from a few years ago.
I put them on. I struggled them over my hips.
I flexed and contracted to get them hooked. They were missing a button.
I said a small prayer that it wasn’t there to pop off in that moment.
I can’t tell if I want to fit in these pants.
I’m looking at the soft roll of flesh between the top of those jeans and the bottom of my bra.
Two garments, that at this moment seem hell bent on making me smaller.
Fitting into a prettier, lacier, mold.
Fitting into a historical silouette of womanhood.
They’re pretty shapes.
I got the bra, a new one, because I read somewhere, once,
That pretty undergarments would make me feel better about myself.
But that soft jelly roll of flesh doesn’t quite conform anymore.
But jelly is delicious, so there’s that…
I approach the pile up of dirty laundry.
I look at it, often, then distract myself but today…
I pull out the red wagon to help me roll with the weight of it.
I’m not confused that I can carry it all on my own.
I get the detergent.
The softener—which is unnessesary, my husband has told me,
He doesn’t care for it.
But I’m using today anyway.
I get the keys for the laundry room door.
I get the debit card. This cleaning has a cost.
There’s always an exchange. I just don’t always think about it.
I load the machines and realize
That my clothes are on the bottom
I need to dig through other people’s dirty laundry to find something clean for myself.
Maybe I should just go buy new pants.
Something that fits.
But I’m here now, so…I load the machines.
If only for the respite, that once I push ‘start’
I can do nothing but wait.
42 minutes will blink alive and the door will lock shut and
I won’t be able to put anything else in
Or take anything else out. I did the part I could do.
There will be a break.
I push in the tiny clothes, my dirty clothes, the man clothes
I notice one has a hole.
Don’t jump ahead to mending someone else’s damage
Before this moments cleaning is complete. Or has even begun.
Just stop looking ahead. Picking out the right color thread to suture
Someone else’s holes.
Extracting my debit card, the machine responds
Then I second guess my choices. Did this load need ‘cold’ ‘warm’ or ‘hot’? And what is permanent press? That seems like quite a commitment. The second machine gives me an error message It lets me look at, sort through the dirty laundry of, all the people I love AND THEN IT DOESN’T DO IT’S JOB! My mind clicks through: Try again? Take everything out? Start over? Rebalance the load? Leave it for another day? What haven’t I thought of to make this work? I think I might start laughing. Or slamming things.
I recognize the wave of upset in response to this moment would not make sense to a passerby. I say a silent prayer that I am alone. I don’t think I could take the look in anyone’s eyes Seeing their pity, that I can’t take care of my things.
Even though I googled all the ingredients in the detergent to make sure that my choices are what’s best for me and my partner and our children and the environment and the workers and the world. Even if I buy second hand and read the labels and follow the directions and go against my instincts—this says cold, but I think warm might be better—even if I take the minutes of my life that roll into hours that roll into years to handle the “dry clean only” or “reshape and lay flat to dry” of SOMEONE ELSE’S garments. Even if I do everything right I can’t seem to make the goddamn machine do its job.
I open the door. I move things around. I check the detergent. I close the door. I insert my payment. Again. I say a silent prayer that “In Use” appears. I double check the settings. Heavy soil. Check. Normal (as opposed to permanent press). Check. Warm. Check. The second machine gives me 30 minutes instead of 42. WTF. The same input..everything.
It makes me want to call my sister and dissect the past. Or just ask her how she’s doing.
It’s a shorter break than I wanted. But everything is in process now and I can’t open the locked door.
I gather myself together, slowly.
My husband’s been doing the laundry lately.
I wonder if he uses this time too—to think—while I scrub the toilet.
I wonder if he has deep thoughts as he deals with my stains.
Does he realize the value of this time? This opportunity for meditation? This vacation?
How sad is that? My “vacations” in laundry rooms or Trader Joe’s parking lots.
Or is that beautiful? Wise?
And have my children managed to kill each other during my “break”
Are they okay? Will they be okay as I take five more minutes here?
One of the dryers is broken. Beyond the different times it will take each cycle to get clean. They can’t even dry separately. I’ve called, emailed…Please fix the machine. It’s fucking up my flow.
I didn’t say that in the email of course.
But it’s true.
When both are wet and cold It’ll all get thrown together on high heat Regardless of individual needs
It’ll all get sorted out later.
I do come back.
When the alarm goes off
I fold the clothes and as I neatly put them back in the cart to roll back I notice that my bag is still on the bottom. All the special care instructions that I’ve been putting off because I don’t have time. The “dry-clean only” the “reshape and lay flat to dry.” It’s there, just waiting to be re-buried by whatever my love strips off today.
It drys. Today’s load. Load(s).
Once it’s sorted, it somehow seems like more. I can’t toss what’s still dirty back in with what’s clean.
I don’t feel like I have enough hands. What needs to be hung, flung over my shoulder.
The dirty in its own compartment, for now at least. I will drop something, this much is certain.
Say a silent prayer. Just get through the front door. Put everything away.
I stuff the mismatched socks down in the side.
I roll into my kitchen.
And take a moment to feel the fullness of the dirty dishes in the sink.