I always dreamed that I would fall in love at the laundromat. In the thick, humid air, the dull thud of people’s laundry tumbling inside the dryers, Friends, dubbed in Spanish, playing on the TV above the machines, and me, without a word of Spanish in me, laughing at all the jokes anyway because I’ve seen these episodes a million times before.
It’s quiet in the laundromat. Just me, and across the way a family–a young mother with two small children, who are shrieking as they take turns pushing each other in the laundry trolley–and the woman who works behind the dry cleaning counter, sweeping up lint from the tiled floors, all soundtracked by the canned laughter from the television. I’m leaning back on a plastic fold out chair, in my laundry-day clothes, knicker-less in denim cutoffs and oversized t-shirt from 5 years ago, no makeup and hair all falling out of its high bun; yeah, I’m a picture of a laundromat pin-up, a vision toting lavender flavored fabric softener.
That’s when he walks in and I noticed him straight away. He is tall, maybe three inches taller than I imagined my ideal man to be, and his back is to me as he loads clothes into a washing machine. My eyes move from the television to the back of his head–resting on his neck for a moment before following the curve of his shoulders down his arms, to his slender hands stuffing clothes in the porthole in front of him–but the rest of my body remains completely still, and when he turns around to take a chair near to mine, I divert my eyes quickly back to the TV without so much as twitching another muscle. Maybe I blow a bubble–yeah I’m chewing bubble gum, that’s a nice touch–and it pops loudly and sticks to my lips. Using my tongue I lick the splattered gum from my lips and without turning my head I notice him noticing me.
Leaning precariously further onto the back legs of the chair, dangling my feet above the ground and pop-pop-popping my gum, I dance my eyes towards him and every time I feel him turn to me I scoot them back at the TV; get out of my chair, dillhole. I laugh, and his eyes are on me again, but this time I just twirl my hair and lower the chair back onto the floor. I glance at him with my side eye and he is bent over, his forearms resting on his thighs, smiling at me bemusedly. My washing is done, and with him boring his smile into my back I get up slowly, move to the washer and bend over–don’t squat as I normally would–to pull out the sheets and knickers and bras out and throw them into the trolley.
I’m brave enough to eyeball him for the moment it takes me to wheel my laundry from washer to dryer and my heart is jolted back into my spine with an electricity that hurts as my line of vision crosses his. I tear my eyes away from him but I can hear his tiniest of gasps as I make my way hurriedly from the washer to the dryer. As I pile clothes into the already warm drying machine we are back to back, our flirtation yanked to a jarring halt. When I’m done I turn back to face him, opening my mouth to speak out loud (say something about Friends? Gum would be perfection. No wait I’m already chewing gum, damn it), but he is at his machine–also finished turning–with his back to me. He’s shoving his clothes into one of those blue plastic Ikea bags; he is going.
As he swings the now bloated bag up and over his shoulder, he doesn’t once glance back at me; nor does he give me a second look as he hurriedly steals out the front door and into the warm night. I stand there for a minute, dejected, contemplating the negative space in the doorway where he had just been, moments ago, walking out so casually. I purse my lips–what gets out hummus what gets out hummus?–surrender to a melancholy sort of half smile and return to my seat.
But before I sit I notice, on the scuffed plastic of this crappy fold-out chair, there is a receipt for a laundry card refill, and on the back of it, the scrawled name and number of a boy. The boy I fell in love with at the laundromat. I stare at it for a moment, shrug, scrunch it up, and with a dramatic wrist flick, I overarm it into a nearby trash can. I look back at the door, and he’s still not there.