By Rachel Conner
I do the same three things the first Thursday of each month. First, I wash every scrap of clothing in my apartment. I have to get up especially early in the morning; otherwise the other customers get upset.
“Excuse me, sir,” the owner asked, the first time I used the laundry mat, “but could you explain to me why you need all of the washers and dryers?”
I gulped, my eyes darting to the old lady in the corner who had threatened several times to call the owner if I didn’t share the machines. I focused on the man’s third chin as I replied. “I’m, um, washing clothes. This is a coin operated commercial laundry facility, isn’t it?”
The man’s face reddened. “You think you’re being funny, punk? Clear out these machines so someone else can use them before I call the cops!”
I looked around at the growing crowd of angry people waiting to do their laundry. Then, I glanced at the washing machines that were humming as they washed my shirts and pants and underthings. After brief battle between my fight and flight instincts and a surge of uncharacteristic testosterone, I looked back to the owner’s chins and said, “No.”
He was silent for a moment. I think he may have been trying to contain his temper, but he wasn’t working. His third chin started to wobble. Then his second. Then his real chin, followed by his entire face shook with anger. He jabbed a finger at me. “You are disrupting my business and costing me money!”
I frowned. “I paid to use these.”
“And all these other people want to as well! Can you not see them? Are you mentally handicapped?”
“Actually, I am.”
The man stopped shaking. “What?”
“I am mentally handicapped. If you don’t mind I really need to wash my clothes. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
I really did feel bad for holding up the other customers. The owner was quite embarrassed by his display and gave me about fifty tokens after politely asking that I come earlier when I needed to wash my wardrobe.
The second thing I do every first Thursday is disinfect my entire apartment. I start in the living room, shampooing the carpet, vacuuming the furniture, bleaching the plastic furniture covers, dusting everything, and thoroughly windexing every glass surface. My process is repeated in every room in my apartment until every germ is eradicated and I have a healthy layer of sweat on my brow.
By the time I finish cleaning, it’s too late to do anything other than the third thing I do every first Thursday. I talk to my mother. Most days I screen her calls and don’t call back until I know she’s out of the house so that we’re stuck in a month long game of phone tag. However, on the first Thursday of every month I don’t even bother to check the caller ID before picking up. Mother is the only one who calls these days.
“Noah dear! I’m so glad I’ve gotten a hold of you tonight!”
“Hello Mother. How is your…” I checked the page full of facts from her
messages, “new pottery class?”
“Oh, I dropped that weeks ago. Wait until you hear what Mrs. Posey did yesterday!”
“Who’s Mrs. Posey?”
“You don’t remember her? She used to watch you when I went to my yoga class.”
My mother then spent the next two hours telling me about John and Jane Doe down the street who kept the whole neighborhood up with their dinner party last Friday and she wasn’t even invited.
I enjoy my special Thursdays. They were the days that I didn’t have to fight my impulses to clean everything and retreat into an antisocial bubble. Every Thursday was identical and predictable. Until the first Thursday of January.
I woke up early like usual and hauled my wardrobe to the laundry mat. I loaded up the machines like usual. I sat on the bench and waited like usual. The unusual thing happened about fifteen minutes before I could transfer clothes from the washers to dryers.
A young woman walked into the laundry mat. I watched her walk from washer to washer trying to find an empty one. Then she looked at me. “Are these yours?”
I blushed and spoke to her ear. “Yes.”
She shrugged. “I can wait.” She sat down right next to me. I kept staring at her ear until she turned towards me, and I accidently met her eyes. “I’m Kaylee,” she said, sticking out her hand.
I unstuck my eyes from hers and looked at her hand. It looked clean, but I couldn’t be sure. “Would you mind using this before I shake your hand?” I asked, digging my always present bottle of hand sanitizer out of my pocket.
She didn’t respond for a moment, and I couldn’t see her facial expression because I was focusing rather hard on her hand. “Okay,” she agreed, grabbing the sanitizer and rubbing it in her hands. She stuck it out again. “I’m Kaylee. You are?”
I shook her hand. “Noah,” I mumbled. Her hand was still a little damp from the sanitizer, and its smell tickled my nose. “I’m usually alone this early in the morning.” Suddenly, her opinion was vitally important to me, and I didn’t want her to think I was inconsiderate to take up all the washers.
She smiled and cocked her head to the side a little. “I like to get up early and get things done. Did you know that the average human spends one-third of their life sleeping?” I shook my head. “Well, it’s true, so I’m trying to decrease my sleep time to one-fourth of my life.”
“Because I would have one-twelfth more time then everyone else to do…
I stared at her, picking my brain for an interesting or witty response other than “Oh” when the buzzer rang on my washing machines one after the other. We both winced. “I’ll just, um, get that,” I said.
Kaylee watched as I cleared out the washing machines one at a time. She started smiling. Then she covered her mouth with her hand. Sure she was laughing at me, I blushed. “Do you want some help with that?” she laughed.
“M’fine,” I mumbled. I opened the last washer, and my underwear spilled onto the floor. Kaylee snorted into her hand. I glared at her.
“Don’t look at me like that!” she giggled. “I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing with you.”
“I’m not laughing.”
“But you should be.”
I tried not to watch as Kaylee emptied her bags of clothes into a washer, but I couldn’t stop myself. “Aren’t you even going to sort the darks and lights?”
She shrugged. “I’ve never had problems. This way I don’t have to use as many tokens.”
She dumped a bunch of white socks into the machine. They were still balled up! “Okay,” I said, forgetting about my own laundry, “let me help you with that.”
“You wouldn’t let me help you.”
I winced. “My laundry is perfect. I make sure of it. If you keep mistreating your clothing, I may have a nervous breakdown.” I put a token into the washer next to hers. “Put your whites in there or I’ve wasted a token and would you please unroll your socks?”
She was laughing again.
The next unusual thing that happened the first Thursday of January occurred while I was dusting the ceiling fan in the kitchen. Someone knocked on my door.
“Hello?” a familiar voice called. “Anyone there?”
Astonished, I opened my door to find Kaylee on my doorstep with all of her clean laundry. “Noah!” she exclaimed.
“Did you follow me home or something?”
“Um, no. Why?” She glanced around. “I always wonder about new apartment buildings. You never know what kind of stalkers live here until they start slipping cryptic notes under your door.”
I stared at her. “So…why are you here?”
“Oh! I lost my key. Doesn’t really look good, does it? I just moved in this week.” She pointed to the door down the hall from me. “Do you mind if I come in and use your phone and maybe wait until the landlord comes?”
Noah sighed. “Sure, but I’m in the middle of cleaning.”
Kaylee pushed past him into the living room. I cringed when I saw her dirty shoes on my freshly shampooed carpet. “Could you…” I trailed off. It was hopeless. Kaylee was already walking through the apartment, reinfecting everything. “I’m going to have to start from scratch,” I whispered. I looked at the clock. I didn’t have time to start from scratch.
Kaylee came out of my bathroom. “So where’s your phone?”
I finished cleaning the kitchen fan while she talked to the landlord. She came into the kitchen when she was done.
“He’s going to try to get here later this afternoon.” I nodded. She looked at her watch. “You know, I didn’t get a chance to eat breakfast today.” I nodded again. “And it’s getting a little close to lunch.”
I sighed and pinched my forehead. “Would you like something to eat?”
“Yes! Thank you for asking.”
I decided when the landlord didn’t show up that my Thursday was officially ruined. Kaylee sat on my couch, flipping through channels on the TV. I glanced at the clock, my leg jiggling.
Kaylee noticed. “Are you waiting for something?”
“Hm? Not at all. When did the landlord say he was coming?” I stared at her left eyebrow.
She leaned in close to my face. Too close. My eyes got stuck on hers again. “Are you nervous about something?”
“Yeah you are. You’re twitching.”
“No I’m not.” My arm twitched. “Well, maybe I’m a little nervous.”
“I don’t think the landlord is coming tonight.”
“No,” I sighed. “I don’t suppose he is.”
The phone rang. Kaylee grabbed it and handed it to me, not pulling her face away. “Hello?” I answered.
“Noah darling! I’m so glad I got a hold of you!”
Kaylee broke eye contact with me, looking down. “Uh huh,” I said. “How was your book club?”
“Never mind book club! Just wait until I tell you what that new young librarian did!”
“I’m sure it was horrible.” Was Kaylee looking at my lips? I hadn’t kissed a girl since Janice Crowley in the tenth grade.
“Oh it was!” Kaylee’s breath was warm on my skin, and her eyes fluttered shut. I hadn’t needed to count things since I was nineteen, but the urge to count her eyelashes was irresistible. One, two, three… “She was in charge of story time for the children today and she was in the shortest skirt! I swear!” Kaylee tilted her head, just a little and pushed her face closer, her lips almost touching mine. “And the looks she was giving to the single fathers. I wanted to give her a talking to! The things girls do these days!” Kaylee closed the last bit of distance between us.
I dropped the phone, and my hands found the back of Kaylee’s head, my fingers threading into her hair. I heard my mother screeching into the phone before she hung up, and the only sound in the room was the dial tone and the quick smack as Kaylee and I separated.
I opened my mouth, stopped, and opened it again. “W—”
A knock came at my door. “Is Kaylee in there? I’ve got a new key for her.”
Manage Your Items