’Hello! I am laundry man!’ In hindsight, I should’ve used the spy hole. This was the second time in a week and I could tell instantly that things were about to get awkward. On Tuesday he’d caught me in the lift on my way down to the shop to buy bin bags, today I’d been awaiting delivery of a Hawaiian pizza (extra pineapple) and, hearing the doorbell ring, had fallen foul of my own hungry impatience. Why oh why hadn’t I used the spy hole?
‘Why you haven’t called?’ He continued, wringing his hands and scuffing his left foot on my welcome mat. ‘You not call me for over a week so I start to think maybe...’
Distracted, his eyes were suddenly looking over my shoulder. Could he hear the sloshing? I coughed, subtly closed the door a few degrees and stepped ever so slightly to my right, desperately attempting to block his view of the new Hotpoint 1200-spin washing machine that was doing a hot soapy number on a week’s worth of my dirty socks.
‘Uh... I’ve just been busy.’ I said, panicked. ‘Working late. I’ll have laundry soon!’ He raised half a smile, unconvinced. ‘I’ll call you maybe, uh, at the weekend?’
He wasn’t buying it. But why should I have to lie? It all started about two months ago. New to the city and living in an ill-equipped flat, Laundry Man had once been my knight in shining armour. Lumbered with an overflowing dirty washing bin and facing the prospect of having to turn my boxers inside out, the squalor of my situation was starting to get me down. I didn’t know where to turn. Then, one day in the lobby of my Hamdan Street apartment block, our eyes met. He walked over and introduced himself, I smiled and he gave me his number. Call it an impulse, but I knew I had to call him.
I won’t deny that it was exciting at first. The crisp creases in my trousers, the exotic floral scent on my T-shirts from his conditioner. We were both happy. But, like so many things, it didn’t last. He’d become dismissive on the phone, no longer interested in how my day was going or the complex politics of my workplace. Worse still, for some completely unfathomable reason he’d started writing my initials in the labels of my clothes. Probably to distinguish my laundry from all the other people whose pants he’d been busy washing behind my back.
Unable to tolerate his hangdog expression any longer, I decided enough was enough. I had to put him out of his misery. ‘Look’, I said, trying my hardest to be kind. ‘I’ve done my best to let you down gently. But the truth is we just want different things.’ His face sank. ‘I’ve got a washing machine now,’ I continued, pulling the door back open and stepping aside. I just think that maybe we should...’ we locked eyes, his big and glassy ‘...stop seeing each other.’
And with that, Laundry Man was gone. My pizza arrived a few minutes later. Carelessly dropping a chunk of pineapple on my best trousers, I looked down at the fresh, greasy stain, stopped a moment and smiled a bittersweet smile. ‘Laundry Man would’ve loved this.’