A Short Story … The Launderette
This is a place where you can hear about the deepest secrets of next-door-but-one’s husband and his floozy, what they did and where, not to mention when. You can find out who is suffering with what disease and who they caught it from or whose offspring are in trouble with the police or excelling at school. The launderette is a hotbed of gossip.
The aroma of laundry powder it seems can be a heady drug and can loosen the tongue of many a bored housewife, not to mention the odd house-husband or two. Of course these men are often a better source of the best gossip than your average housewife – she has seen it all, heard it all before. To her male counterpart, recently made redundant and carrying out the laundry run on behalf of his harassed wife, it’s all new and very, very juicy. He glories in passing on every syllable of every whisper heard on the other side of the bank of machines, to anyone who might be interested. And by that, I mean anyone who appears to be interested. He is in fact likely to pounce upon any willing listener, in a vain attempt to court comradeship in the face of domiciliary solitude. He has yet to appreciate the silence of the house when all of his darling offspring have departed for school or the smell of bleach in the loo for the few hours before they come home.
Househusband has become an expert in seeking out places where he can find women who will take pity on his predicament; women who will sympathise with the daily drudge of chores which have to be done between the hours of nine and three. They know very well the monotony and thankless predictability of his day. He will sit and let them share with him their favourite tips for getting stains out of the laundry or for making the groceries go that little bit further on those weeks when there is too much week left at the end of the money. They, for their part, will coax and cajole him to join them in the cafe next door for a coffee, ‘to help him to get to grips with his new place in society’ of course!
The poor chap has yet to realise that he cannot be admitted into their inner circle. He does not have the necessary equipment for that. He can never know what it really means to be ‘housewife’. Only from the periphery looking in, can he experience the true loneliness of keeping a home running like clockwork, no matter what obstacles come up, no matter what life throws at you. Secretly, they hope he will fail. They want him to feel the helplessness that they feel when it all falls down around them. Those days when they are left to gather everything in their lives back into a pile, it isn’t always a tidy one, but somehow they manage to get it together before the husband and breadwinner walks back in the door at night. Triumphant, they can take a seat at the dinner table secure in the knowledge that he will never know what an ordeal the day has been for them. Househusband’s wife will come home and see that he only hoovered the middle of the room and didn’t move the sofa to catch the crumbs where Daughter sat and ate her Weetabix this morning. She will see the stains that he has missed on the worktops because she knows each of the older ones with the sort of contempt one feels toward familiar adversaries. She knows just how far she can make a pound of minced beef spread for the family meal and will not be impressed when he tells her that he has done the same thing today.
His new friends at the launderette might heap praise on him tomorrow. They will understand, he is sure. They will know where he is coming from when he tells them about her non-committal reaction to his hard work and how that has made him feel less than a man. They will gather around him and whine about their own unappreciative spouses, about how they come home expecting to see their family and home looking well cared for at any given hour. They will tell him about how the beasts then demand their connubial lust be sated every night…
His eyes glaze over as he realizes that they could be talking about him.
Copyright of Ruth Raymer, All rights reserved 2013