On laundry

There is something strange and voyeuristic about the Laundromat, yet also strangely comforting; a somewhat welcome return to a semi-stark reality in a life increasingly easily filtered through chosen images and words, sealed into individual units.  But here, dirty laundry is visible, tangible, concrete.  Worn waistbands and frayed hems press up against steamy dryer doors; a stray sock lingers on the floor; quarters and detergent are spilled, recollected.

At my Laundromat, strips of fabric line the walls; mostly blue.  Sewn quotes are interspersed with phrases, notes written in permanent marker and ballpoint pen, fading ink on faded cloth.  I have never seen someone write one; I wonder if keeping pens capped in company is an unspoken rule like the unspoken rule about not speaking that dictates the silence except for the whinging of the spin cycle and the thrum of the dryers.

It is disorienting to watch clothes dry, round and round in endless leaps, always in the same direction.  But too it is hard to avert the eyes; there is a palpable sense of relief coupled with a tinge of disappointment when the motion stops, one last shirt making a final leap before collapsing with the others.

Like the brief moment of satisfaction when you pull a well-formed cake out of the oven only to realize that it must be cooled and frosted it before it can be served; the adult understanding of diminishing returns – still-warm cake sounds better, really, than it tastes, and laundry is best folded before wrinkled and cold.

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