Laundraland: Adventures in dirty laundry

CITY LIFE.LAUNDRALANDby Stacey Warde

I met a woman who was dressed only in lingerie while she folded her clothes at Laundraland in Cayucos.

“Hello!” she greeted me as I pushed through the door with my heavy load of soiled baby clothes and plopped it onto the countertop so I could go look for an open washing machine.

“Hi!” I responded, winded, frustrated with the necessity of washing clothes at this shithole, where the machines seldom work properly, there’s no bathroom and the dryers never get hot. 

I tried to avert my eyes from, only glancing at, her naked form beneath the sheer fabric of her bedroom attire. She was about 25, petite and dark and short-haired, tightly wound and spun, and she appeared to be a bundle of joy through her dark flower-print shift.

“Do you come here often?” she asked, smiling and neatly folding her other lingerie and panties.

“Only when I have to,” I said, “which is often enough.”

I’ve never liked this place. It stinks, the machines are always broken and unattended, they eat your quarters, and the floors are dangerously wet from leaky washers, which are often filled with towels from the hotel next door that runs the place, making it hard to find open washers and dryers.

Not much has changed since my encounter with the lingerie-clad hussie folding her panties there 25 years ago. It’s still a shithole.

I was married, raising an infant daughter and going through all sorts of turmoil in my life, wanting more than I had, unhappy in my marriage, wishing I could go home with this dish presenting her wares.

“I see you have a baby,” she offered.

“A beautiful little redhead,” I said.

“Are you married?”

“Yep.”

“Are you happy?”

“As happy as any married bachelor can be.”

“Do you mess around?”

“No.” I lied. I’d had a fling with an Austrian woman who’d come to visit a friend. We petted, kissed. She blew me but we never fucked, which I feebly used in my defense when my wife later found out, pummeling me with her fists and horrible epitaphs. With the exception of my daughter, my life felt lacking.

“Do you come often to the laundry dressed like that?” I asked.

“No,” she said casually, not the least embarrassed, “all my clothes are dirty and this is the only clean bit of clothing I’ve got. My husband hates this outfit so it’s usually the last thing I have to put on.”

“You’re married?”

“Been married one month,” she said proudly. “My husband loves when I wear lingerie. So I wear it pretty much all the time.”

“Your husband’s a lucky guy,” I said. 

“He sure is,” she responded. “I keep him pretty happy.”

“Well, he’d be a fool not to keep you happy,” I said lamely, feeling myself going over the edge.

“Oh he does,” she said, “but I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out. We hardly know each other.”

“And you got married?”

I’d put my daughter’s soiled baby clothes with my other laundry into several washers with no quarters lost or eaten, with no mechanical failures, no catastrophic slips or falls because of water on the floor and sat down on one of the joint’s three chairs available near the glass door entrance.

She stood some distance away, at one of the washing machines on the other side of the place, filling her laundry basket, far away enough for me—or her—to avoid getting into trouble.

“Well,” she began, “we met in Las Vegas. I was having a drink and he introduced himself. He wanted to know if I’d sleep with him.”

“And you did?”

“No, not at first. I told him if he could tie a cherry stem with his tongue, not only would I sleep with him but I’d marry him.”

“Are you serious?”

“He took the cherry right out of my drink, ate the cherry, and put the stem in his mouth. A few seconds later, he pulled it out tied neatly into a knot. So I married him. We moved here to Cayucos about a month ago.”

“So how’s it going?” I asked. 

“OK, I guess. I kind of miss messing around.”

She gave me a look across the wall of washers. I knew that look, even though I’d not seen much of it since I’d married.

“We don’t have to go anywhere,” she said, indicating with a nod that all I’d have to do is step behind her.

“I’d love to but this isn’t the place or the time,” I said, standing, reaching for the door. “I gotta go now. I hope things work out between you and your husband.”

“Thank you!” she responded, again cheerful, folding the last of her clothes. I knew that when I came back for my clothes to put them in the dryer, she’d be gone.

Not long after that, I vowed never to return. I’d gone back to do a load of laundry, secretly wishing to run into the mystery girl dressed only in lingerie. I never saw her again.

I put a handful of quarters into the washing machine and nothing happened. “Goddammit! Fucking machines!” I opened another machine. It reeked, sour and putrid from the stench of green-grey swamp water that filled the basin, and I nearly passed out. “Fuck! I hate this place!”

I walked out in a fury, swearing never to return, but I did return years later only to find that little has changed, except for the faces. Laundraland is still a shithole, but you do meet some interesting people. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice.com and air dries his clothes whenever he can.

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