What We Deserve

Photo by Terrye Turpin

I didn’t miss having a dryer until I bought my washing machine. For the two years after my divorce I made do with the community laundry room at the apartment complex where I lived. It seemed a little self-indulgent to complain about the lack of a washer and dryer when there were women dodging land mines instead of worrying whether they would lose a sock to one of their neighbors. Carrying my laundry up and down the stairs and back and forth the fifty yards to the laundry room was good exercise. If it was a cold and rainy day, at least I didn’t have to carry my clothes down to the river to beat them on a rock.

In the middle of my life, when I thought my laundry future set, divorce thrust me back to a college dorm room status. I left a bad marriage with what I could carry in my arms, plus the futon from the upstairs game room. Possibly the last person over 50 to sleep on a futon, I tried to keep my material possessions down to the bare minimum, in case I ever needed to make another quick escape. Back then, I envied the homeless people standing on the corner, tied down to nothing but a backpack and a small, brown paper bag of booze.

“You need a dryer,” my boyfriend, Andrew, said one Sunday morning. We lounged in bed, by this time I had replaced the futon with a full-sized mattress supported on a wooden frame. When Andrew spent the night, we would wake tangled in the middle of the covers, each of us fighting for our share of the space.

Andrew and I met online, matched up by a mutual affection for cheese, Scrabble, and hiking. On our second date I asked him to assemble an IKEA dresser for me, and to my surprise he returned for a third date after that.

“I’ll get a dryer soon,” I replied. The new washer was less than one week old, and I was still adjusting to the idea that my belongings would no longer fit in the back of my car.

“Look, here’s one on Craig’s list, and it has a picture,” Andrew persisted as he held out his phone toward me. “You deserve clean, dry laundry,” he said. He seemed earnest, but I wondered if he’d grown tired of dodging the damp clothes slung over the shower rod.

The dryer in the picture looked functional, and the price was right. Andrew read the phone number off, and I called about the dryer. A man answered the phone in a drowsy Sunday morning voice, accepted my offer of $50 for the dryer, and gave me directions to his house.

When we arrived at the address, I noticed a large storage pod, the size and shape of a railroad boxcar, stacked on the drive way. I wondered if the dryer came from some abandoned unit. Were the people in the house divorcing and dividing up their possessions? I hoped not. I didn’t want to wind up with a vengeful dryer, one that would burst into flames from spite, or chew up my underwear and spit them out like a cat hacking up hairballs.

We made our way past several rusty metal filing cabinets lined up on the sidewalk and toward the open garage door. As Andrew texted that we had arrived, a tall man in flip flops walked out to meet us. A barefoot woman I guessed to be his wife, stepped up behind him.

“Sorry about the mess, we’re moving,” the man said. He motioned at stacks of boxes in the garage. “The dryer’s right in here, if you want to look at it.”

I followed the woman inside to the laundry room. “I can turn it on,” she said as she moved towels to a laundry basket on the floor. She turned the dial on the top of the machine and the dryer responded with a quiet hum and a little quiver as the drum inside tumbled around. I smiled and nodded that she could turn off the machine. As I counted out the money, and her husband and Andrew got ready to load up the dryer, a young girl with the same brown hair as the woman strolled over to us. A small black cat huddled in her arms, a cast on one of its legs.

“What happened?” I said, as I reached out and touched the kitty.

“We don’t know. My husband found her one night on his way home from work. Someone had run over her, or thrown her out of a car I guess.”

“Does she have a name?” I asked.

“That’s Maybe,” the woman told me. “As in, ‘Maybe we can afford the vet bills!’”

This must be a happy dryer, taking care of the clothing for a family that took in and cared for stray cats with broken legs. I imagined the machine tossing my clothes in its warm embrace as Andrew shut the hatch on my SUV, and dryer loaded, we headed back to my apartment.

Later that night I washed a load of clothes, put the wet items in the dryer, and went to the living room. I settled down on my futon with the book I had been reading and listened to the gentle thump of the dryer. The scent of lavender fabric softener drifted through the apartment, a reminder this was what we all deserve- a comfortable place to sit, clean, dry clothes, and someone to help us carry it all upstairs.

© 2019 Terrye Turpin

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