Archive for the ‘Jack’ Category

The laundrette (2006)

In Jack, Victoria on April 27, 2007 at 3:10 pm

When Victoria rings – already she knows the number by heart – Jack is at the laundromat.

He calls it the laundrette.

Jack’s voice softens the ette, and Victoria pictures him. His shoulder is holding the phone up to his ear and he is lifting wet denim out of the washing machine. His shirt is tight, button undone, the curve of his neck is exposed. He has not shaved today and tomorrow he will need to wash his hair.

Victoria holds her phone tightly in her hand. She closes her eyes and she imagines that he leans in and leaves a kiss on her cheek, before his lips brush hers. Because – in her mind – he has not shaved, his cheek scrapes – but gently – across hers. And then he holds his fingers at the back of her neck.

His fingers are feather-strokes.

Victoria thinks of telling him all of this and more, but she does not. Instead, she opens her eyes, she sniffs, she clears her throat. She licks her lips and she scratches her head.

They talk.

‘I couldn’t stop thinking of you last night,’ he says.

‘I know.’ She giggles, stops herself, laughs.

She had gone to bed with her phone on the bedside table. She had turned off the lamp and watched for the glow of the telephone as his messages arrived. The sound of the phone was turned down, because it was too harsh in the night, made the house seem lonelier than it really was.

She had sent her final text at twelve. I’m going to sleep. Goodnight.

She had stopped texting, and he had too, but she had not stopped thinking of him, of the place where he was. A house with the lights turned down, the music up. She pictured him drinking beer, although with her, he had only ever drunk wine. She imagines that at parties, he spends his time leaning against the kitchen bench watching the flow and the ebb, that if she were there, they would leave early, and they would take the long way home.

She does not tell him any of this.

Victoria can hear the steady thrum of the machines at the laundromat. Laun-drette. Zips click against the dryer’s steel tube. She sees, in her mind, waist-high tables in the middle of the room. Square and sparse, laminated brown, they promise ordered piles of washing. Clean and dry. She wonders what Jack folds and what he irons. Are there things he doesn’t iron, but hangs all the same? Jeans or pants or shirts. Does he put his clothes on a chair at night or leave them strewn across the floor? And then she wonders: what does he do with his shoes.

They talk some more and the dryers drone.

Victoria thinks of the warmth of the laundry when the dryer has been on. She thinks of the laundry windows in the house where she lived as a child. They dripped with winter condensation and the panes were painted white. She used her fingertip to write boys’ names at night. I love Stephen, I love Charles, I love Pip. And then she flattened her finger out to wipe their names away. Before anyone else could see.

She puts the phone in her other hand, wipes her palm down her jeans.

She writes Jack on the pad she keeps by the fridge. The pen is black, the pad yellow. She draws a flower near the J, and then a star. Another flower, another star. And then she thinks I’m nearly forty years old.

Jack is telling her of his bike ride home as the sun came up, of seeing the car door just in time. She gasps, then laughs where she should, but she is thinking he stayed out all night. She has forgotten that it is something people do.

He tells her more of the story, then laughs. At the place where nobody got hurt.

His laugh makes her close her eyes again. She runs her fingers through her hair, her hand down the back, then the side, of her neck. She opens her eyes to listen.

He is working tonight, but not tomorrow, so perhaps they could catch up.

She says I can’t get a babysitter, not now and he says yes, I know, as if he really does, and there is a small moment before she says do you want to come here.

It is a question, not an invitation, but he says yes.

The beat of her heart has slowed.

She hears the kids outside, in the yard. There are loud shouts between them. Screams. Silence. Laughs.

Jack says I could cook. His is an invitation, with a tiny question mark.

There are other people at the laundromat. She can hear their voices, but not their words. They laugh strangers’ laughs.

Victoria thinks of Sunday nights. She thinks of washing dishes and wiping the table down. Of readers to be read and homework which should already be done. She thinks of ironing shirts and handkerchiefs.

Five of each.

Every week.

Jack says can you hold on a minute, I have to get some more coins.

Victoria thinks while she waits, if I have to wash his clothes, what load will I put them in? Whites? Colours, kids? Colours, hers? Sheets and towels? No, no, no and no. But would his be a load of their own?

Are you there? Jack asks. Sorry about that. I never bring enough coins. He laughs although there is no joke.

His voice is deep and his laugh is smooth.

Victoria closes her eyes. She reaches for the feel of his hand on her neck, and for the memory of feather strokes.