Monday, September 1, 2014

Cancer of the Hamper

Sometimes I think nudists have the right idea. They’ve simplified their lives. I haven’t managed to take that leap into territory where no clothing hides the various bulges and quirks of my decaying body. Eventually my wits will abandon me, and I’ll no longer mind the scorn and mockery bound to follow if I venture out naked. Until then, laundry haunts me daily—the bane of my existence.

About once a month, I gather the courage to face the heap of clean clothes which reproduces like rabbits on top of my dryer. I stand in the claustrophobic laundry area for an eternity and fold clothing I didn’t know I own. My hands move in a tedious monotony, shaking out a shirt and smoothing it into a somewhat tidy square. I set it down and grab another superfluous garment and repeat the process…. Over and over and over. This is the moment I can’t help thinking, “How on earth did I get so many clothes? Where did that skirt come from? Why can’t I find anything to wear?”

Apparently I do find things to wear, because a tumor grows in the hamper at light speed. It is cancerous, contagious—frightening. And since I have a child, it reeks. The menacing lump swells, and I cringe each time I see it. It spills out like the noxious slime oozing from alien pods in a sci-fi flick.

I brace myself and confront the growth. I open the washer and turn the knob to select the correct cycle, sharp, rattling clicks grating on my nerves. The water streams into the tub, slowly, ever so slowly, filling it. Detergent poured in, then I excise a chunk of tumor and sort the pieces, hurling a tornado of garments until the drum is full. Dark, white, color, white, towel, dark. Most often, the procedure ensues due to the lack of a certain item which must be worn on a certain day, or perhaps my son finding some new, foul way to soil his clothing.

The groaning, rattling, swooshing, gurgling of the washer drills my brain for forty minutes and then, if I don’t forget I’m in the middle of doing laundry, my hands pull the cold, soggy mass out and wrestle it into the dryer. Inevitably, a wet pair of undies splats on the floor in an effort to escape. I close the door and hit the button; the dryer rumbles, the mound thumps in protest. Desiccation separates the mass, and the sound softens with time, but for one button that tinks, tinks, tinks. Or maybe it’s a penny. Not loud enough for a quarter or tinny enough for a dime. After a while, the buzzer sounds, the jolt of a cattle prod interrupting one of the other hundred tasks I've attempted.

But by this time, my fortitude has waned. The scourge prevails, awaiting another load which requires its removal. Yanking it out, I try to balance a sodden load in one arm, sodden socks plopping at my feet. I mash the dry clothes into the already full basket sitting on the dryer, crushing them into compliance and wrinkles. There the clean clothes remain, the pile shrinking by a shirt here, socks there, replaced by ten more until the malignancy overwhelms.

Thus, the cycle begins again. I wish had the strength to face the process more often, but instead I avoid it. The cancer mocks me. I turn my head and pretend it’s not there…. Until I gain the courage to battle it once again.

Despite my loathing of the process, I admit I do enjoy the outcome. The sense of accomplishment in a chore conquered provides relief and satisfaction. The clothes hang neatly in the closet or lined up in organized rows in the drawers.

The warmth of a plush, fleece shirt fresh from the dryer provides comfort few things can. I rub the fluffy material against my cheek, inhaling the scent of flowers, as if deprived of oxygen. It transports me to the simplicity of childhood, when I took for granted the clothes arranged in my old oak dresser. I remember lying in my mother’s soothing arms, the softness there, the perfect serenity, and the crisp, summer-wind smell of her blouse.

Maybe I won't throw the clothes out just yet.

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