The Laundry Room

Submitted by Najwa Zandlo to Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone doing laundry.... view prompt

Your mother is in there - in the laundry room - washing your clothes right now. She’s sorting out the darks from the lights, and she’s making neat piles on the floor of your dirty clothes. Let’s face it - they’re more than dirty, right? That dress you wore to the party you weren’t supposed to go to has a cum stain right on the front. Those jeans, those fucking jeans, barely fit you anymore, but you wear them anyway because they make Elijah stare a hole straight through your ass. But you don’t like Elijah, you like attention, and there’s a difference. Every single pair of panties in that room right now have been pulled off in the backseat of a car this week, and your mom is touching them and sorting them and staring at them thinking, “Jesus, I raised a slut.”

She doesn’t understand you though, not really anyway. She never has. She’s always looked at you as “half-finished,” a project she happened upon and glued a few pieces together but found something else to occupy her time once the pieces started getting harder to find. Her distraction was Heath, and he’s a good one. He comes over all the time and cooks dinner and cleans up the kitchen and wishes you a “good night,” before pounding your mother senseless when you walk up the stairs and shut your bedroom door. They used to wait until they thought you were asleep, but the time for pleasantries is over - they fuck often and loudly. 

Before Heath, your mother didn’t have many distractions. She kept her eye on you and only you. It’s exhausting to be loved that much, isn’t it? Before Heath, she cooked your dinner every night, and it was never anything you really liked. Before Heath, she stayed up late cleaning the house and packing your lunch for school and watching shitty television shows on the couch, crying into her blanket. It was always stiff with snot the next day. Before Heath, your life was her only distraction, and she took pride in that. She went to every school event, she met all of your teachers on the first day, and she signed your report cards the moment you brought them home. Now, Heath takes up her time, and that’s fine by you, because you needed a break. But a break is only supposed to last so long before it ends, and this one hasn’t. 

Now, the only motherly chore she really does for you is the laundry, and you’ve made it the worst part of her week. Between all the sex and booze and after-hours fun you have, your clothes are better off burned most of the time. Except, she never says a word, and that’s what really drives you crazy. See, you wish she said something - anything - about the clothes. Maybe called you downstairs and asked you about the cum stains, or left a note on your door saying the two of you needed to “talk.” You wish she asked you why everything you own suddenly started smelling like cigarette smoke, or why your dresses started getting smaller and shorter. 

In fact, the only thing that might get her attention at this point is a pregnancy. You’re seventeen, so you’re still young enough to make a fuss over, but that window is closing rapidly. Once you’re eighteen and out of the house, she won’t really care what you do anymore. Heath will stay over every night, probably move in at some point. Maybe he’ll take your old room and turn it into a weight room or an office space. He’ll paint the walls something neutral and boring - just like him - and you’ll have to come home on break and sleep on the couch because your bed became some old lady’s $25 garage-sale find. 

You could always go down there - into the laundry room - and watch her sort the clothes. You could laugh to yourself when she touches something you know is disgusting, and she’ll ask why you’re laughing and you could tell her everything. It’s the perfect opportunity to get it all off of your chest - but you’re scared. You’ve been scared ever since Heath came around. It’s not that he’s scary, but the idea of Heath scares you. He’s taken your mother’s attention for almost three years now. He’s the reason so many of your pieces haven’t been glued on the right way. 

But now is the time - this your chance. You can go downstairs, sit in the laundry room, and tell her everything. Start from the beginning - from before Heath - and tell her how much you miss the way she used to drive you to school on the first day and shake hands with all your teachers and jot down their email addresses in her planner. Tell her how the day she stopped packing your lunches, you sat at the end of the table in the cafeteria, no lunch in site, too scared to walk through the line and pay for a plate like everyone else - you didn’t eat lunch at school for over a month. Tell her how you lost your virginity to a boy you didn’t like - the one with the red hair and glasses that had tape over the middle - but you still cried when he didn’t call you the next day. Tell her how Samantha, your best friend, bought you your first bottle of liquor, and how, even though it burned going down, you drank almost all of it before throwing up in the bushes and crying for her when no one was looking. 

Tell her how you hook-up with random boys because it makes you feel seen and heard and appreciated, even though you know they don’t call and they won’t call and they’ll just tell all their friends you’re “easy” - which you are. You’re easy because Heath stole your mother, and you want her back. Tell her that you only started smoking cigarettes because Alex, the boy from your Math class, gave you one after school, and he looked so good dragging it between his lips that you had to try it, but now you hate it and you want to quit. Tell her that when you drink too much at the parties you lie to her about attending, you sit in the bathroom and think about calling her to pick you up, but you’re scared she’s with Heath. 

Go to the laundry room and tell her everything. Walk down the stairs, look her in the eye, and tell her you miss her. Tell her you love her as she’s sorting through all those dirty clothes, and when she tries to hug you, hug her back hard. You miss her, and you miss yourself most of all, and mothers are experts at finding things when they’ve been lost - even their children. 

And, when you tell her all of these things, remind her that none of it is her fault - or Heath’s. Tell her that you actually like Heath. You like the dinners he cooks, and the way he secretly records movies when you ask him to - even though you’re not supposed to be watching them. Tell her that Heath is a good man, way better than your father, and that you like the way he makes her happy. Tell her that even though you can hear them fucking, you’re happy for them, because he’s made her happy and that’s all you cared about anyway. 

So, you do it. You get up. You walk down the stairs. You hear her in the laundry room, humming that Beatles song she used to sing to you, and you knock on the door. 

She answers - she’s surprised to see you - and you look around the room. 

Your clothes are still in the basket, untouched, and there’s a note on them. 

“You need to wash these soon - they’re starting to smell. Love, Mom.” 

You ask her why she isn’t washing them. 

She says, “Honey, you’re plenty old enough to clean up your own cum stains.” 

You go back to your room, laundry basket in hand, tears like knives behind your eyes, and you start sorting them into piles - lights and darks - and call Elijah back. Heath’s car pulls into the driveway just as he answers.  



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18 likes 8 comments

17:14 Mar 26, 2020

I cannot start to explain how good this was with words. Great job on this piece Najwa!

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19:48 Mar 16, 2020

Damn. You got me. That was woah.

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02:28 Mar 16, 2020

I enjoyed reading the story - well done. I was sure wishing for a happy ending, though! You got me with this one.

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03:57 Mar 13, 2020

That's really intense. Hope my kids never felt like that! Beautifully written.

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16:02 Mar 12, 2020

How sad! Really well developed story - well done

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18:47 Mar 11, 2020

Very poignant story - touching and sad. Well done.

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17:08 Mar 11, 2020

I like how you make me feel like I am truly in the story. Plus, it's quite relatable. Thanks for the good read! 5 stars!

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How do you manage to come up with such beautiful stories? This is great, really. Now imagine for a minute, if her mother had actually listened to her daughter's silence, I think I'd probably like Heath. Well done.

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