Dirty socks. There was something erotic about the way the cotton picked up the smell. They reminded Celia of sex.
She threw the dirty socks into the hamper, gathered the towels,wash rags, bathmat, her slacks hung over the back of the rocking chair, a bra slung over a lampshade, and stuffed the laundry down into the wicker hamper with her fists. She grabbed her detergent, her purse and her car keys and was off to the laundromat three blocks away. Once there, she fiddled with the damn change machine, creasing the dollar bills so the finicky slot wouldn’t reject them, but finally cough up quarters she’d fit into the metal hand of the washing machine. She deposited the whites together, darks together, her laundry agitating. She sat down in the sunny window seat and leaned back against the wall. She looked across the street at a child riding a skateboard, a heavyset man walking a dog stuffed inside a red plaid sweater. Celia felt really lonely. She was looking to be filled up like the washing machines, to have someone put money in her slot, to get her agitating.
Her thoughts spun. She’d left Steve behind. She’d walked away after six years of living together. She’d done his dirty laundry how many times? Hundreds? She’d smelled his perspiration rings, sniffed his socks, gulped in the wide expanse of the shirt backs, her muscular wide-backed Steve, big and stocky, good and smelly. She’d enjoyed his dirty laundry, the scent of his cologne. His manhood she found charming. It was the real live Steve she had problems with.
Men baffled Celia. She liked their maleness, their scents, their energy consuming her, but when it came to simple everyday talk, she felt far away from them.
Celia waited for her laundry, rummaging through old newspapers. She wondered if either of the men folding their clothes were meant for her. Could they fill her up? She was sure they couldn’t.
She picked up the pink pages and acted interested in current movies. She waited twenty minutes and went to check on her laundry. One of the loads had a light on that read: Unbalanced Load.
Was this supposed to be some kind of message about her life? She opened the lid and balanced the bathmat. She slammed the lid and the machine started its spin cycle. She dragged the other clothes out of the washers and threw them into dryers, stuck quarters in each, turned the knob and watched her clothes fly in a circle of colors, flopping around, limbs dancing. She felt giddy.
Giddy and angry. That was her all right. She was happy and sad, depressed and elated, clear and confused. She was an unbalanced load, needing someone to come and unbunch her and straighten her out. To figure out her loneliness, show her true love without the difficulties of reality stepping in with its big foot of pain and mess.
Steve made emotional messes and left them for her to clean up. He failed to relate, as her therapist said. He analyzed a problem, never communicating so they could have good sex afterward.
The clothes dryers mesmerized her. The circling heat slapped her clothes dry. She would fold them, put them away so she could wear them all over again. Trek back to the laundromat and stand here again. The circling colors matched her own spinning thoughts, the endless tumbling that kept her feet from planting themselves on the ground. Celia was an unbalanced load.
She watched the dryers, the clothes taking on an odd sexual look. They tossed and tumbled, thrown together, encircled by heat, pantlegs slapping, clothes entwined until the dryer stopped, clothes on top of each other in an exhausted heap, a pile of burning zippers and unbuttoned blouses, her bra twisted, the metal hooks burning her fingers as she dragged it out and unwound it, trying to make sense out of its shape.
Celia scooped her clothes out of the tumblers and placed them in the laundry basket. She wheeled it over to the folding table. A bachelor stuffed his clothes into a pillowcase, a teenager outside smoking a cigarette. Celia halved her bathmat. She shoved it into the bottom of her hamper.
Evening awaited her. She folded her underwear, a menstrual stain like a Rorschach test on a pair of her white cotton panties. Should she take them to her therapist, have them read for clues? She caught herself smiling. Her arm circled her hamper as she made her way out to her car.
Eliza Mimski's work has appeared in Entropy, Poets Reading the News, the Eunoia Review as well as other publications. This year, she was a finalist in the San Francisco Writers Conference contest, in adult fiction. In July, she was a finalist in UK's Fortnight Poetry Contest.