The Little Things Arc
Part Four: Laundry
by D.C. Logan
He took a deep breath, held it for a count of ten, then slowly exhaled in pleasure. The mingled scents of laundry soap, fabric softener, damp clothes, and hot dry air circulated through his lungs. He resolved anew never to tell Duo how much he loved laundry day.
The whole process of the chore appealed to his sense of order and rules. He always started by roaming systematically about their apartment, retrieving the sodden towels from the bathroom floor where Duo believed they lived, plucking worn denim shirts from chair backs, assorted socks from wherever they landed. And one memorable time, even pulling a pair of Duo's red briefs from the high light fixture in their bedroom.
He dumped the armloads of the soiled clothing on the open spread of the bed linens for sorting: separating light colors from dark; sorting everything by correct washing temperature and agitation; removing any clothes that required hand laundering (few, but those were special and not worn often). Stripping the sheets from the bed and wrapping the separate loads into fitted, flat, or pillowcase as volume determined. And then hauling his precious load down the long flights of steps to the sub-basement of their apartment building where the laundry equipment lived: two washing units, three drying, and a third-hand table with an unmatched pair of fourth-hand chairs. It was one of his favorite places in the building—and nearly always vacant. Most tenants preferred to use the laundry service two buildings over, since they picked up and dropped off at your door, and offered reasonable rates.
He loved the activity of loading the soiled clothes into the washer, precisely measuring out the cleaning agents, listening to the thrum of the machines shifting and agitating their bulky loads. And then the process of pulling the clothes out, wrapped and entangled in each other, with their heavy damp smell from the bin—and sorting again, to dryer or line as manufacturer requested. Yes, the order and logic and the regular routine of it all appealed to him.
He held a long-sleeved red pullover apart from the others. It was safely faded now, but Duo's favorite shirt had caused some problems until he assimilated all the intricacies of the laundering skill. One memory in particular stood out...
"Okay, so who did the laundry last night?" Heero asked, knowing full well that Duo had run a load through the wash while he was out shopping. "Um, care to explain this?" He had held up a pair of bright, nee shocking, pink briefs, previously new and perfectly white. Duo had been prepared to dissolve into giggles—until he remembered that his clothes had been in the same load.
"Oh hell Heero, sorry 'bout that."
Heero had tossed him the pink briefs for closer examination. "Mind if I do the laundry from now on? We can trade off on other chores—I don't mind doing it."
Duo looked relieved, and things had improved when Heero assumed laundry duties permanently and learned all the relevant tasks associated with the care of their clothing. He quickly found out why Duo preferred black and other dark colors—he couldn't seem to keep anything clean for longer than it took to dress himself in the morning and walk through the apartment. Sometimes—although rarely—he made it through an entire week without destroying a single article of clothing.
And he enjoyed the exploration involved in the regular task as well. The adventure of sorting through the laundry for hints of Duo's days without him. Coins and crumpled candy wrappers loose in pockets, a small stain from a lunch not shared until now. The simple small stuff of daily life. And it would have remained unknown to him if not for this task, this chore, this strange, normal, practical labor of love.
And he found that he enjoyed pulling the clothes fresh and warm from the dryer. And the gentle intimacies of folding his lover's clothes—remembering how he fit inside them. And carrying them, newly flattened and returned to their latent form to the cabinets and closets upstairs. Only for them to be worn, reconfigured, stretched and wrinkled at all the same junctions again, and returned to the laundry for the next round.
But as much as the rest of it appealed, in some strange way it was the underlying symbolism that made an impact on him—of their clothes mingling together, sharing dirt and clean in rotation. Following the same path of their lives. Sharing close contact time and again. Over and over. Cycle after cycle of their time spent together.
He cherished this time, spent mostly alone, to think about Duo and what he meant to him, and to wonder if Duo did the same, in some quiet moment of his day. This was his time, separate and planned for each week. Where he reflected on recent events, held Duo's used clothes close to his own face, inhaled deeply, and gave heartfelt thanks to whatever Gods were listening that the two of them had somehow managed to make a go of it so far.