This is the hottest place in Brooklyn. No, this is the hottest place in New York. No—the Earth.
You’re really regretting not dropping off your twenty pounds of dirty clothes. You’d normally drop them off and do something productive, maybe watch four episodes of Seinfeld, but you got home from work early and wanted to save money. You do the math, and find that you are saving maybe ten dollars. It’s costing you an additional ninety minutes of your life, folding time included. You remember back to when you were single and you never folded clothes. You’re not particularly sad or happy about it. Your clothes are still always wrinkled. You realize you aren’t really saving any money.
After forty minutes on ‘NORMAL HIGH TEMP’ your clothes are still not dry. Your own general dampness, caused by the hell-heat of this hell, persuades you to give up and hope things are dry enough to not foster life on them while in the darkness of drawers. You are distracted, busy remembering how a floormate in college, freshman year, had shoved his wet laundry away, assuming it would somehow dry. This was discovered only when his roommate almost vomited upon accidentally opening the wrong drawer. You also remember that this same man, the one with the wet clothes - not the roommate - purchased a case of damaged grape juice, forgot about it, and then celebrated its fermentation by staining the Ryors fourth floor’s toilet bowls pink.
A kid has appeared. He sits in a stroller and absentmindedly plays with the unseen objects within a bucket on his lap. You think it might be Lego. You catch him staring at you as you fold your boyfriend’s pants. Suddenly, you are aware of your technique, aware that this kid might be studying you, might draw on this experience in the future when he is folding the clothes of his boyfriend or girlfriend.
You examine your work. The table so far is a little sloppy; you had been distracted, lost in thought about the guy from Nigeria who didn’t know how to dry his clothes. You think that thought and then wonder if it’s racist, but then remember that you are in the middle of teaching this stranger kid to fold jeans.
You are folding your boyfriend’s jeans, which you fold differently from your own jeans, because he likes them folded in a way that you would qualify as ‘dumb,’ or maybe ‘stupid.’ (Because it’s a small enough thing to qualify as ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ without causing a fight.) Anyway, you fold them by grabbing the seams of the cuffs of his pants, pinching them together, and then folding the whole item into thirds. This creates an artificial pleating effect, which some people - not you - enjoy. The child observes the entire process, and you hope he will remember it, for better or worse.
You fold t-shirts in a way that makes them look at first like the actual letter ‘T’ and then like the letter ‘r’ and then like ‘—’. You fold underwear the only way you can, which is appropriately half-assed. You pair socks with their mates in an exaggeratedly fast motion, a no-show whack-a-mole, hoping it will impress your student, this stranger kid who is still watching you, in his stroller, even though his nanny has put food on his lap.
Only he isn’t watching you. He’s watching someone else, a spiteful looking woman with waist-length gray hair and rower’s arms. You question if she is a woman and then wonder if that is a sexist thing to question. Why does it matter if she is a woman? You remind yourself that you’re lucky to be a cisgendered man. You question if you really know what that means, and promise yourself to google it later. (You don’t.)
The nanny has taken the kid’s food away and he’s staring back at you so you fold some dress shirts with a technique that mimics the one used on your t-shirts because as soon as you get home you’re just going to hang them up, anyway, but you don’t want this stranger kid to think you’re a slob who throws unfolded shirts into laundry bags. And then he yells at his nanny, “Hold this, mommy,” and you question if this Hispanic woman is this kid’s mother, or if he’s just verbally confused, and you wonder if this is racist, and, if it is, has the laundromat made you this way?
You finish and start packing up, loading things by category in an order that seems logical. Maintaining the shapes of folds is pretty hellish if you think about it, which is what you’re doing, because your kid is watching you. Wait, did you just think of him as your kid? You realize that you did. What does that even mean? Does it mean that you want to have children? No—no. What it means is that you don’t want to have children, but you still want to have an impact on the lives of children, no matter how menially. It means that you want this kid to fold his clothes a certain way for his whole life, and not realize why, until one day he is in his forties and he is folding his pants in a dumb way, a way that creates these really problematic pleats that he has to iron out every morning, and he remembers some guy in a pink shirt staring at him, maybe a little creepily, and folding pants so deliberately that he couldn’t help but think of the technique as universally lauded, the correct way to fold pants. You are securing your legacy through your own begrudged laundry practices. But then, you think, is that really any better or worse than some other method?