I had to do laundry. I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I had been wearing the same clothes for longer than I would’ve like to admit. But the very thought of the laundromat made my stomach clench and the fact that I got to the parking is a feat in and of itself.
I’ll try again tomorrow. Tomorrow isn’t that far away. I can wait until tomorrow. But then I catch the smell of the pile of clothes in the basket clenched tightly by my white knuckles, and I try to gather up and courage I hadn’t used up before. My heart picks up its pace until its tripping over the concrete beneath my feet and I stop right in front of the door.
“Literally every person in the world can go into a laundromat,” I mutter to myself, “You’re not any different from them.”
I push open the door and immediately regret my decision. The noise alone makes my lip quiver. Then everyone’s heads have turned and I’m sure something is stuck on my face. I fight the urge to brush it off if there even is anything there. I hurry to an empty washing machine and start throwing my clothes in, not sorting them into colors as you’re supposed to. Then I throw in detergent and fabric softener and start the machine. It’s a lot louder than I thought it would be and I sit down on the bench, staring at it hard, willing for it to be quieter. It just rattles more, I cover my ears, hoping it’ll help.
But the sound seems to grow louder and the machines seem as if it’s going to fly from its spot. I bite my lip as I draw my knees up to my chest and wish for everything to just stop. Or maybe just for me to stop. Or time. Well. Time isn’t real. I just need a pause to catch my breath.
But no such luck. The machine rattles on. My chest tightens. My breathing quickens. And someone is staring at me. Everyone is staring at me. Everyone knows I’m just a little girl who can’t even handle washing her clothes.
Someone drops a basket and their words are loud and sharp. I squeeze my eyes tighter.
Three dryers are going and I can hear each piece of clothing hit the bottom of the dryer before they’re thrown up to the top again.
“Here,” A steady voice breaks through the noise. I look up, my stomach rolling. I don’t know what I’m expecting but it wasn’t what I see right in front of me.
A teenage boy stands there, holding out a pair of purple earbuds that leads to a walkman in his hand.
“They’ll uh, cut through the noise, better than you’re uh, you’re hands,” He gives me a weak smile. He’s all soft edges and slow movements and big eyes. I take the earbuds and stick them in my ears, unsure why I would even listen to him. He turns the volume down low then presses play. He’s right. All other noises are gone. It’s just the sound of a guitar and a loud voice yelling lyrics. I return his half smile but I’m afraid he’ll take away the music if I give him a full one.
But he doesn’t. He just hands me the walkman and disappears. I don’t move, just listen to the compilation of sound and combination of voices. For some reason, this yelling doesn’t make me nervous. To be honest, I don’t mind. It’s loud yes, and angry maybe but… I can control it. If I want, I can turn it down. Or up. I can pause it if I want. Or I could let it play on forever. It’s my choice.
He comes back, holding a notebook and two pens. He sits next to me, a foot or two separating us. He gives me a look as if checking I was okay with this. I give him the slightest nod.
Then he opened a notebook to a fresh page and wrote.
Did it help?
Good. I’m Callum. Can I ask your name?
I pick up the pen and write slowly. My handwriting is the equivalent of chicken scratch so I make sure it’s neat and clean enough to read. In very small letters,
So polite. And it’s Elle. I like Callum, I think it fits.
He writes back, his hand working quickly as if he couldn’t wait to get the answer out.
Thank you? I never understood the whole complimenting names thing, not like you can choose them. But thank you anyway. I like Elle, you’re parents were wise in not choosing something stupid.
My handwriting is a bit messier in my reply but I want to keep the conversation going, don’t want to kill it.
Yea, true. What’s a stupid name, in your opinion?
I’m not sure who would name their kid blanket so I don’t write anything right away. He smirks slightly then adds,
Or Callum. It means soft or dove or something.
Well, I like it. And that’s what matters. Haha.
The two ending syllables I regret. They stand out on the page, ha. ha. They sound dry. I go to erase them but he’s already writing so I don’t get the chance.
True, true. Guess, I won’t have to worry about it anymore. If you like it, it’s enough for me.
I don’t respond. The song is finally ending, the last few notes fading out and I stare at his words. enough for me. My hearts flutter but not in the way too much and too fast way. No, this time it flutters in the I’m enough for someone way. I pull my eyes away and glance at him, he’s waiting for my reply. I can’t think of anything to write, my brain has gone numb and my toes curl into my shoes, trying to think of something. Anything. But his load ends and he gets up.
I’m left sitting there with the music, the notebook, a small smile and a warm feeling in my heart that I quite like.