Laundry. Finished. Ten a.m. of a Monday morning in the cheapest — wait, no — most affordable apartment complex in Frederick, Maryland, where the semi-basement — wait, no — terrace level apartment in which he lived was luxuriously close to the laundry room. One dollar a wash-load and an ancient, honest-to-goodness, I Love Lucy-era industrial laundromat dryer wherein one bought eight-minute increments.
Although, he’d been using the laundry room for six months and putting in a quarter each time the dryer stopped after its eight minutes before being gently told by a lovely woman, older — wait, no — around his age who was making her weekly visit to do her son’s laundry for him so he wouldn’t have to drive it to her (WTF !!!??) one could put many quarters in, all at once, to buy whatever multiple-chunk of eight-minute time you desired.
Story of his life, this incomprehension when it came to practical matters.
The possibility of multiple quarters —wait, no — the improbability that one would have to put in a quarter and wait the eight to put in another — had never occurred to him.
Truth: He’d liked the ritual. He’d take a book and sit in one of the two wooden rockers in the lovely yellow-linoleumed room in front of the behemoth of a dryer, all of which atmosphere made it easy to pretend it was not 2016 and his life was not complicated by what seemed to be a leak in the toilet and a flaw in the freezer temperature, his poverty, his repeated rejection by not-that-hot men on apps where it seemed anyone could get fucked but him, and the fact that since the recent presidential election he had been unable to sleep, daily losing more of what little grip he’d managed to maintain through his unusual and exhausting decades, so he now lived in a constant state of chest-pain, stomach distress, and full-on anxiety, exacerbated by fits of rage and tsunamis of suicidal ideation.
So, he did the laundry. He’d done the laundry. It was dry. Seven quarters and fifty-six minutes later, he was there, folding.
And it hit him, this laundry pile of his. These talismans. His phylactery collection.
Three souvenir T-shirts from his six visits to the Broadway musical Grey Gardens. Two souvenir T-shirts from his one visit, on his birthday one year, to the horrifyingly awful Broadway musical Lestat. One green and white and red plaid scarf that had belonged to his eleven years deceased aunt, which he now wrapped around himself all winter long, missing her still — she who had made him promise her he would not wait to take New York trips with others as she had, no, but would trek each year to the Algonquin, alone, and enjoy the city. And, too, his telling laundry, now dried, seven tagless, V-neck T-shirts in black and gray (although he always wanted to type GREY) and seven pair of boxer-briefs, also in black and gray, underwear of various vintages supplied by Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Hanes, and Fruit-of-the-Loom — the story of his downwardly mobile path told by brand — all of which was about making him look like a hot-daddy, or good-gay; and none of which quite did that trick. Or, got a trick. Or, something about tricks. Speaking of which, one pair of classic Levi’s 501s he’d washed with bleach, that morning, trying to make them look like the ones the really hot married guy at the gym wore, knowing it wasn’t the jeans so much as it was the guy’s ass and waist and all of this reminding him that the story being told about him by the freakish collection of facts disguised as laundry was likely the reason he’d continue to suffer rejections by not-that-hot men.
And the world.
And everyone had a book contract but him.
And he was tired.
And that fuckwad stole the election.
And some days, well, all he could do was vacuum or do laundry. Because he just couldn’t face Twitter, or other people’s sorrow (or, petty-ass Grey Garden-ed wannabe — their joy), and today was one of those goddam beautiful days. Shut-up.
(And he longed to be embraced by one who got all his Grey Gardens homages.)
Because, he suspected — wait, no — feared, that the answer to his dysthymia and serial life-fails had to do with something as simple as depositing multiple quarters all at once, and here he was, not going, because he was putting them in one at a time, his quarters, and reading while waiting, waiting, waiting in front of this throwback, this echo from another era, this object of fantasy (not unlike the hot married guy at the gym in his 501s) in which he was mired, stuck, drowning himself, waiting for the past, the noise and the heat of it, to stop.
And, so, laundry. And an 800 word blog written in an hour because, you know, one quarter at a time.