The Comfort of Routine
I like to sit in the laundromat, watch the clothes spin in the dryers, try and guess what people’s lives are like from the pieces of fabric that dance in the hot, spinning air. Tonight, pieces of delicate lace tell a different story to a load of grey flannelette, which is different again to the jumble of whites and darks and colours all thrown in together with reckless abandon. There are rules of laundry, and I wonder who would be brave or careless enough to break them that way. I am watching this carnival of flouted tradition when its director appears in the doorway. He shuffles over to the machine but the load clearly isn’t dry enough; he slams the dryer door closed again and the clothes resume their tumbling. With a heavy sigh, he lowers himself onto the seat beside mine.
He’s a small, wiry man, something akin to a jockey only not as spry. I nod, polite, try to hide my frown. I like being alone here. I watch the machines spin again; focus on the rhythmic hum, willing it to soothe me. The man beside me sits perfectly still, staring straight ahead, as though he’s lost in thought or memories. Most people pick up one of the faded magazines lying around on the laundry benches to occupy themselves. They don’t really seem comfortable, left with their own minds for company. But this man seems to prefer it, just like I do. That’s when I notice the knife, strapped to his ankle, peeking out from the hem of his trouser leg. Curiosity gets the better of me.‘What’s with the knife?’
‘Hmm?’ He’s pulled from his reverie by my question, shaking his head slightly, trying to clear it.
‘The knife. What’s with that?’ I glance down at his ankle and his eyes follow mine.
‘Oh, that. Someone took something from me once, something I treasured. I’m waiting for the day we run into each other again.’ The faded blue eyes narrow, the frown lines etch deeper. Whatever it is he wants back, I’m glad it wasn’t me who stole it.
‘Looks like you mean business.’
‘Well, I hope you get it back.’ His face crumples briefly.
‘She’s gone. I’ll never get her back from where she is now.’ Just for a second he’s vulnerable; but the mask is soon back in place. Stoic, resigned, angry, all mixed together, like a load of washing.
‘Home invasion. He got off. Lack of evidence.’
‘Five years ago next month.’
All the pieces fit together. This sad, angry little man, consumed by grief and rage, stumbling through life waiting for a chance to exact the justice he feels denied. I watch his laundry spinning in the dryer. He’s not flouting the rules. He’s going through the motions.
We sit in silence, watching the fabric of our lives spinning in the machines, centrifugal; the humdrum pushed to the outside, emptiness at the centre.
Amanda McLeod is an Australian author of fiction and poetry. Her words can be found in Terse Journal, Ghost Parachute, Elephants Never, along with being a now-regular contributor here at Sick Lit Magazine. McLeod is one of Sick Lit Magazine’s featured writers for the month of May. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has been long and shortlisted in a number of international competitions, and has won several prizes. She is also the assistant editor at Animal Heart Press where she enjoys helping authors bring their books into the world. When she’s not immersed in words, she’s a keen painter and enjoys quiet places. Connect with her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites