Yes, my unmentionables. I'm talking panties-and the Laundromat and the girls.
I hate going to the Laundromat for this reason. There are no secrets there among us patrons. I can hide nothing. I am never more exposed to strangers than when I am fluffing and drying a wide array of panties and nighties and bras in full view. It is a place where we literally air our dirty laundry in public. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding it unless I wish to wash my unmentionables by hand and then suffer with the feeling they are not clean enough and feel stiff without the dryer to soften them.
It is an odd ritualistic dance among the musical machines. We don't speak-we glance furtively from the corners of our eyes. It is not a place really to chit chat with the loudness of the giant room. I find it difficult to make small talk as I attempt to fold my nighties without anyone looking at them while I do it. And I am ashamed to admit that I am a creeper to the fifth degree when it comes to sneaking a peak at everyone else's private laundry too and the people all those piles of clothing belong to.
I watch the young mother pumping quarters into the vending machine to quiet the kids with chips and pop. I see the basket full of diapers and blankets and I am glad I don't have to wash diapers anymore. Yet at the same time I mourn the same damn thing. She has her hands full with little ones wanting to help but really causing her much more trouble. Her voice becomes shrill over the volume of the machines in the course of a couple of hours.
There is a man who is bleary eyed and stumbling a bit. He has a duffle bag filled to the brim with greasy work clothes. He stuffs as much as he can into one machine. He probably works at the mill and his wife won't let him ruin her machines. He looks around and is pissed off that he even has to be here. (I am too sir, we are all in the same dirty boat) He moves outside at least and hangs out in his car.
The owner is sweeping between the machines and talks on the phone keeping a wary eye. Maybe he is wondering if one of us will steal the lovely plastic chairs to sit in or the portable squiggly lined television bolted from an arm in the ceiling. He hates when I tell him I have been running a dryer for fifteen minutes only to then realize it is broken and only blowing cold air. Hey buddy, I don't care about the quarter I lost I just figured you'd want to know.
Then there is me and laundry mountain and the girls. We wander in and out of the Laundromat waiting for our clothes. The oldest girl has it all down to a science and knows exactly which machine will finish at what time. She hates to fold the laundry there and will cram it in baskets to bring home unless I am with her and insist we fold it because it gets all wrinkled. I hate ironing more than I hate the Laundromat.
The youngest girl uses her time here wisely. She talks to me. She doesn't talk to me much anymore now that she is fourteen and knows more than me. But here, at the Laundromat, she airs her dirty laundry for my viewing. I appreciate that. I really do.
Among the panties and bras of a houseful of women, both young and not so young, my youngest daughter mentions the unmentionable. I know the other people there are listening. We only pretend to each other we are invisible. I am happy though to be doing this mundane task with this girl child of mine. I am happy to hear about her unmentionables.
Monika M. Basile