Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Laundry gets the best of me

Laundry folding is constructive compulsive behavior. Compulsiveness is only a minor affliction for me. Salt shakers and lamps do not need to be in certain places, though a salt shaker or a lamp may express to me a desire to relocate to a more aesthetically pleasing position. I can decide not to grant the desire, but if it doesn't interrupt (Inner) Mother saying what a good boy I am or otherwise detract from pleasuring myself, why not make the poor bastards happy?

Folding warm laundry repeatedly delights me. It takes a human shape (a torso, a pair of legs, or two stumps) and creates a rectangle. And then more rectangles, each congruent if done properly. Perhaps I should join an artists' commune. But they would grind their organic clove cigarettes and say that the rectangle is today's square. The square is a rectangle. Artists are clever: taxpayers as rectangles, themselves as rhombuses (or rhombi to those who enjoy intimacy with both sexes), and criminals as parallelograms.

My microwave beeps to let me know that my dryers are done. I descend the three flights of stairs as rapidly as possible because I like to live on the edge. I open the door to the laundry room, and the light, which operates on a timer switch, floods fluorescence without my touch. The neighbor who lives directly below me throws her clothes into the dryer next to mine. She. She, of my age and height, with a cute though somewhat knife-like nose and short black hair. I suspect that she is a lesbian, though my secret hope is that she is a lesbian. Well, that's actually my other secret hope. The other I don't discuss with anyone.

"Hi," I say. To girls, I like to say "hi" rather than "hello" or "aloha," unless "aloha" means good-bye.

"Hi," she says. To boys, she likes to say "hi" rather than "hello" or "get away from me," unless "get away from me" means good-bye.

"Excuse me," I say as I squeeze past her, holding my empty laundry basket over my head like Goliath.

I open the dryer and fold my clothes on top. Some people like to throw their dry clothes into the laundry basket and carry it up to their apartment before folding. I am not one of those people. I think that to minimize wrinkles, it is necessary to fold your clothes in their warmest possible state. The first few items out of the dryer are shirts, but then boxers pour out, stumps outstretched, imploring. Is it polite, I wonder, to fold underwear in front of the fairer sex?

If no...I imagine that she goes back to her lover, who is short, red-haired, and plump in face, thighs, and breasts to say, "That boy above us has no shame." Of course, it comes out, "Uh uouah a no ay," because of open-mouthed kissing. My imagination is based on the hole in the floorboard by the radiator. Through this hole, I cannot see the apartment below, but I can see pipes with two female ends soldered together.

I decide that my regular boxers are not too intimate a thing to show my neighbor. If it were my flaming boxers (the pattern implies that my crotch has suddenly burst aflame), then I would hesitate.

I fold. Paranoia comes.

"Could you not fold those in front of me?" she says by staring straight forward.

By snapping the boxers in the air to straighten them out, I say "Hey, it's not like I'm pulling out my zebra thong and other delicates and hanging them on those little hangers with the clips."

"Get away from me," she says by putting her last T-shirt in the dryer and slamming it shut (the latch is no good, but this is good-bye).

Somewhat dejected and feeling no pressure, I fold, using only one dryer top for both folding and stacking, trapping the long end of the warm shirts between the dryer and my stomach in its folded state, preserving the clean creases.

"You fold well," she says.

I jump, and my favorite gray T-shirt unfolds at the bottom.

She laughs.

It shocks me to hear a laugh louder than "Mr. Always Right" in my head. I close my mouth and fold the unfolded shirt.

"Thank you," I say, "Mother makes me practice in my apartment."

She turns away just as I smile to let her in on the joke.

I missed the proper pause by a half-second, so, dear readers...

Think of the worst hundred responses to that compliment. I think mine ranks number forty-two: one better than "I fall into wells" and one worse than "I fold because you must have a royal flush, which is what I have in the morning after coffee and a cigarette. " Of course, the worst thirty are racial slurs.

"Have a good evening," she says almost inaudibly as she walks out the door.

"You too," I say, equally almost inaudible.


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