Albany Journal – 8/9/12

There was a feeling in the air when it happened.  I sensed that everything was going downhill, as many items in my humble apartment here in Albany were either falling apart or broken.  For the last few days I had worn a pair of swim trunks and a tee-shirt for clothing.  It wasn’t until my third consecutive day of wearing this clothing that I knew something had to change.  Yes, my clothes had to change.  I needed a make-over.  I needed to take a shower, shave closely, and brush my teeth – and yes, above all else, above any kind of mystical force that was somehow driving me into bed for frequent naps at all hours of the day, above any sexual healer or performer that had come to me in my day-dreams,  I could not deny anymore that I had five loads of laundry to do and that I had been avoiding this task for several weeks.  There was no way around it.  I had to do my laundry, and this meant a lot of work that I just didn’t feel like doing.

At the foot of my bed, there are three laundry bins where I throw my soiled clothing.  These bins, or baskets, I should say, were all full and brimming with clothing.  I moved these heavy baskets to the front door, then outside, then into the street, all the way to the back of my 2001 Honda CR-V.  I could have had a rest after this work was done, but I knew that the whole afternoon would be devoted to doing my laundry, and so with thirty dollars in quarters that I redeemed from my loose-change glass,  I took a drive a few blocks away from where I live, and I parked in front of  “Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat” on the corner of Madison Avenue and South Main Street. 

I dragged each basket individually up the ramp that greeted me when I opened the door, and into the air conditioned room I went.  The laundromat itself is really one big hallway lined with washing machines and industrial dryers on either side.  I used the most expensive washing machines there – these triple-loaders that would get the work done in half the time but cost a few quarters more per machine.  There is also a small seating area there made up of old movie-theater chairs facing each other.  And as I did my laundry, a pale, young Irish woman in a bright green dress, came in with a small suitcase of pink-colored clothing and then sat in the waiting area across from me after she had loaded her clothes into a washer.  She then worked on her school schedule by scribbling down her timings in a day/date planning book.  Her dress hugged the cups of her large breasts and perfect buttocks, and I really had to work hard not to get in a conversation with her. 

There was another fellow in the laundromat who did try to start a conversation with her, and he found out that she studied Social Work – where exactly, she didn’t mention.  She said that she  needed to finish a research project.  She had straight flowing hair, orange-red, a smooth pale face where a pair of black glasses sat smartly on her pointed nose.  She looked so good to me right there, and I was going to at least grunt in her direction, but all I could do was sit there in the waiting area as the other guy in the laundromat had the balls enough to sit right next to her.  The young woman then moved to a seat across from him, and the silence amongst the three of us was distinct enough to know that there was no way this fine looking woman would ever want to date someone she had just met in a laudromat – or at least that is what I had thought at the time.  But she only had one load of laundry to do, and so after studying her body for a while through my opaque sunglasses, she got her pink clothes from the dryer and shoved them into her suitcase.  She walked heatedly towards the exits, and that’s the last time I would ever see her.  Who knows what her life was like, or where she lived, or what she did for a living, or to whom she made love.  She could have probably gotten any man in Albany she desired.  There was no way she was ever going to struggle with anything.  At home, she probably waited to hear from one of her big-muscled boy friends, a type whom she was used to hitting on her in high school.  Anyone else by her side would look dreadfully out of place.  And when she left the laundromat for good, I was saddened by her departure.  One just had to look at her and be fulfilled in some way, but it’s never enough.  I still wanted more and more, but I would have to live with the guy across from me.  He looked like he was weeping when she left.

So I did wind up doing five loads of laundry, and for about an hour afterwards, I folded all of this clothing in my apartment and jammed them into the drawers of my chestnut dresser in my bedroom.  Hardly any of the clothing that I have fits me anymore, as I’m about thirty pounds over-weight, and my waistline has significantly grown.  The stuff that I have no longer fits.  I could give at least half of what I washed to charity, but I keep these clothes anyway.  I squeeze into them as a reminder of how much weight I need to lose.  But even a couple of days afterwards, I still recall the woman in a green dress.   All she needed was a green beer to go along with her outfit, and most of the city would think it were St. Patrick’s Day all over again.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.