Clean Living

Steven almost bankrupted himself doing laundry the first year he was away from home. He could be seen in the dorm laundry room at least three times a week, and sometimes more, a load or two spinning away in the machines as he stood by with a dreamy smile on his face, his eyes closed, headphone buds deep in each ear. It got so bad that food, let alone textbooks, was impossible for him to buy.

He was lucky enough to find a summer job as a lifeguard at the local Y. Though he hated every minute he spent in the chlorine drenched place, Steven would work double, even triple shifts to dig himself out of the financial hole he had washed himself into. He didn’t want to ask his parents for help, knowing that asking for their assistance would mean admitting to a truth he hadn’t fully acknowledged himself.

Steven was an addict. He was addicted to the smell of laundry.

For a while it was enough just to press his face into his freshly laundered sheets and clothes. But the scent would remain for only a few days, a week at the most. The smell of laundry detergent straight from the bottle wasn’t the same either; it was too concentrated, too acrid, and made his eyes water rather than his pulse slow in gentle contentment.

Steven had always been high-strung. Ever since he was a child he was prone to various nervous ailments and anxiety attacks. He didn’t know why, but the warm, soft smell of laundry, as it sloshed about in steaming water, as it tumbled dry, spinning and falling over itself like a skilled acrobat; the smell soothed him, so he could think and enjoy the world around him like everyone else.

He knew how it sounded. He couldn’t explain it himself. But the fact remained that functioning as an adult in day-to-day life became increasingly difficult for him if Steven didn’t immerse himself in the downy smell of laundry at least once a day.

Looking back, it was ridiculous how long it took him to realize the perfect solution to his problem. Steven smiled as he stood behind the Laundromat counter, watching the Sunday crowd in the midst of its peak drying phase. His Laundromat was the tidiest and cheapest in town, and it was always busy.

Steven was well-liked by the local community. His easy-going nature and calm demeanor fit in well with the rest of the sleepy small town. When asked what his secret was to such spiritual bliss, Steven would simply smile his dreamy smile, take in a deep breath through his nose, and answer, “Clean living.”

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Published by rsjeffrey

Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds.

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