I consider the curdled pile of clothes. Worn and worn again.
We have maintained the traveller’s dresscode of not-exactly-clean. Perhaps just a little too long.
Laundry is mutated by mileage.
Hand-washing in bathroom sinks.
Do you think? Will it dry? In time?
Laundromat searches down winding back alleys.
Long resentful hours following spinning and flopping.
All that I-could-be-out-there-ing.
This time, though – smug.
Hotel laundry services! Hotel laundry services! Hotel laundry services!
I find the form, start tallying. Underwear. Socks. Four shirts. Two pairs of jeans.
One hundred and seventy five Euros.
I find a laundromat down the street.
I push open the door. A long narrow room with blue and white linoleum.
Washing machines, dryers. Plastic chairs for waiting, a bench for folding.
As I browknit over instructions – pictograms, French – the door opens.
A woman in her sixties with a bright, open face and a red and gold headscarf.
She quick-fires sentences.
Madame, I am very sorry! I don’t understand! (Tragicomic face. Remorseful. Yup – hopeless.)
She laughs and points. Two machines. Baskets on the floor beside them.
Her face inquiring.
But she is satisfied. Smiles, nods, closes the door. Heads off down the street.
Was that polite possession?
Or critical instruction? Dire warning?
I am gleeful, TRIUMPHANT – two machines turning – when she returns, flustered.
With a handful of coins.
Oh! She is thanking me!
Ohhh – that connects dots.
Hi! Could you please mind my things? I need to get change.
We become friends over pantomimes, dryers, and drills.
First, she mimes misery. (A neighbouring jackhammer is assaulting our ears.)
She catches my eye, clasps her head. Dramatic moan with plea to the heavens.
Yes! Goddamnloud. Stupid drill.
Then my dryer refuses, and she deciphers my miming.
(Flailing arms, rapid pointing.)
She considers this performance, eyebrows raised. Drawn together.
Something in French – trying to clarify.
Then her face opens wide, and she shows me a button.
Sept, sept, sept.
She is grinning. Amused.
Dryers turning, we wait.
I read. Hawkes. Wildplaces. Grief.
She sits quietly, head up. Hands in her lap.
With my thumb I bookmark feathers, dead rabbits, meadows, and loss. Look up.
She is pointing.
I stuff the clothes in a bag.
Check the machine for stray socks.
Hand on the door, I can say only thank you. Goodbye.
She waves. I can’t understand her response.
I walk back to the hotel.
A bundle of warm soap-scented fabric.
Held to my chest.