P—W  V° 02:10


by Nancy Haskell


I tend to stuff dirty clothes into the hamper until eventually, inevitably, it explodes.

Post-wash, once everything is clean, dry, and put away where it belongs, I tell myself—every time—that I’ll never let this happen again. That I will take care of things before it all spills over, unkempt.

But this is my cycle. I will only engage when forced to, when the pile has gotten so out of control that I am left with no choice but to confront it. Rejecting engagement allows me to live in a temporary bliss.

So long as the lid is shut and the door is closed, I can pretend I live differently.


Doing laundry is methodical. The clothing has to be sorted before it goes into the machine, every piece with its own instructions, its own appeals for care.

It used to just be me doing it, but in combining the laundry of a household I realize that maybe I can’t do it alone. It’s not sustainable, and I’ll crack. Isn’t that the point of partnership? This person in front of me saying “let me help you,” and me answering, “yes.”  

So what if he shrunk my favorite bra? He was doing the laundry so I didn’t have to.

We try our best. To sort, to put things in the right places, to group them together. Some things go by the wayside, but that’s okay. In letting him see, I learn to trust.


Between the two of us, we have one key to the laundry room in the basement. One ticket to turn the laundry over, to retrieve it when it’s done. A precious, solid, little thing we entrust with each other.

We cross a threshold every cycle. Everything we’ve built together in our tiny apartment stays behind as we descend into the communal chaos of the laundry room. There is a frenetic energy to getting in and out as quickly as possible, so as to let other residents complete their chores.

Coming home, there is quiet as we wait for the timer to tell us to go back down. We relish in the peace, for we know it will dissipate the moment we walk out the door.

“Do you have the key?” we ask each other, before making our way back out.


When I was a child, I would sit in a white plastic laundry basket and watch television. “Sailing the high seas,” I called it. In the basket, I felt held, contained. Nothing mattered when I was in my ship.

I knew that in time, my mom would need the basket. It meant that the clothes were dry. But before I would have to say goodbye and become adrift, she would envelop me in the warmth of the clean clothes, fresh out of the machine and tumbling down.

For a brief moment, everything is perfect.

In the present, as my clothes dry, I am given another chance to get it right, to try again. I touch each garment to make sure it’s really ready to be put away. And with each fold, I let the pile that suffocated me, disappear.

2022 © N.Haskell