I slammed the bureau closed.
Nary a scrap of cotton nor lace resided in my unmentionables’ drawer. I cast an accusatory glance at the hamper. Like a domestic Vesuvius, a lava flow of balled up socks and wrinkled jeans erupted from its plastic crater and pooled across the floor. There was no alternative – I’d have to break my self-imposed seclusion.
Mumbling under my breath – stupid, washing-machine-less, middle-of-nowhere apartment – I wrestled a double load into the car and headed out. After a quick detour to acquire caffeinated ambrosia from the Dunkin, I turned into the pothole speckled parking lot of the local Fluff-N-Fold.
Arms wrapped around my overflowing laundry basket, it took a synchronized effort of toe and hip to maneuver the door open. Grace and poise abandoned me – if I’d ever had them – and I stumbled over the threshold. My bottle of Organic, cruelty-free, environmentally righteous detergent clattered across the cracked tile.
Repartee died as countless pairs of eyes spotlighted me – a kaleidoscope of blue, black, and brown that ogled in fascination. The only woman in the room, I had a sense that like blood in the water, the sharks could smell the divorce on me.
Face ablaze, I ducked my head and skulked inside.
Nothing to see here.
A flutter of whispers swelled as I proved myself inept at laundry tech. I swiped my card and tried to load credit to my account. Instead of allowing me to fumble through my incompetence in a discreet fashion, the Laundry AI chastised me in booming monotone.
“Unable to complete transaction.”
I tried again.
“Error. Please enter your pin.”
I miss quarters.
The sharks circled.
The first to approach was a rogue notably my senior, wearing discolored sweats and doused in a marinade of Marlboro and Jimmy Bean. In some bizarre laundromat etiquette, the others fell back in deference to the alpha. After a brief tutorial, I mastered the electronic atrocity and retreated to the bank of washers.
My new friend shuffled after me and watched, looming overhead as I crouched down and offered my sullied wardrobe to the machine’s gaping mouth. Angling my shoulder, I attempted to shield my intimates from his prying gaze. The washer gobbled a silky bit of fabric, and I shuddered when the knave emitted a low whistle.
Teeth sunk into tongue as I stemmed a copper flavored tirade. A timer echoed and the dandy tottered away, unaware he’d barely escaped a scorching of his hairy ears. I sighed and concluded my rendezvous with the washer while he was preoccupied fishing his dungarees from a nearby dryer.
With idle time on my hands, the sharks still hovering, and nowhere to go, I employed my first line of defense – a thick volume of literary work. I settled into an unyielding plastic chair in a corner and started turning pages. Adopting my best inapproachable demeanor, I prayed to Harpocrates, god of solitude, to bless me with his silence.
Whether the laundromat was fraught with desperation, or my eau de newly single was somehow irresistible, it soon became evident that a book and a forgotten Greek deity were naught a deterrent.
One by one the contenders made their overtures.
Shut up, I’m reading.
“Come here often?”
“You need help folding them sexy little drawrs?”
Dear gods, save me.
When the dryer chimed I declined the option to fold on the dubiously sanitary, rickety table. Instead, I crammed the still warm clothes into my basket and fled. A chorus of adieus chased me out the door.
“See you next week!”
“Nice to meet you!”
“Give me your digits, girl!”
I’m never doing that again. I’ll buy all new underwear.
In the parking lot a late winter breeze nuzzled and nipped – a paradox of refreshing caresses and icy teeth. I breathed deep letting the arctic air sear away the miasma of the experience.
In. Out. In. Out.
I strode across the slick pavement, intent on reaching the sanctuary of my rusty, Malibu – the four-wheeled chariot that would convey me home. View obscured by the mountain of clean clothes in my arms, I skidded on a patch of ice.
Time slowed, slipping through the hourglass grain by grain, as my laundry basket tumbled from my grasp. With a nauseating squelch, my lavender scented sundries splashed down into a slush and mud filled pothole.
As I stared at the mess, hysterical laughter burbled from my throat.
No matter what, don’t let them see you cry.