"Don't piss me off", he warned.
She stood outside the apartment building, one step below him. The slight girl shifted her weight as she gripped the handles of the heavy bag with her left hand. This required her to balance on the narrow step as she reached forward to accept her boyfriend's carefully meted out quarters. He knew exactly how much each machine required, and she was not given any extras. They pooled their money, and his wants became their needs, and her needs were demoted to non-essentials. One of her dreams featured an apartment sized washer and dryer, but he declared it inefficient and unnecessary.
She dragged the bag along the sidewalk, silently cursing her lack of courage, imagining a future that wouldn't include him, or his dirty laundry.
The laundromat was wince-worthy filthy from floor, to eye level, and the constant buzzing of the overhead lights made her nauseous. Using both hands and all her strength, she swung the sack up, and it landed where she had aimed - smack in the middle of the sagging work table.
She propped the washer lid open, and mindlessly shoved the sweat stiffened t-shirts, cords and briefs into the tub, unconcerned with color separation. He could wear dingy shorts, for all she cared. She did take care to search pockets for tissues, Q-tips and notes, working quickly as the wash bin filled with water.
One leg of one pair of cords was twisted inside out, and she automatically reached into the leg to turn it back. The hem came free, but inside the hem was a tiny, twisted pair of gray thong panties.
They weren't hers.
The churning was too far into its cycle to stop, so she just closed the lid, and quietly let a decade's worth of tears fall into the lid seam, where they eventually made their way into the soapy water swirling below.
She counted the remaining change - just enough for the dryer, or more than enough for a donut and coffee.
Thirty minutes passed. She licked her sticky fingers, and was comforted by the heartbeat of the machines as she sipped her coffee.
There are always people eyeing your machine at the laundromat, and a sleepy pregnant girl stood next to Donna’s machine, tapping her fingers on the lid as she waited. Donna continued to sip her coffee.
The washer stopped. She smoothed the surface of the laundry bag, and carefully arranged the wet clothing on top of the scuffed canvas.
She had brought a book to read, but it went back into her rucksack, unread. She took her time threading her arms through the straps of the rucksack, and once that was in place, she grabbed the flat of carefully arranged wet laundry, and carried it outside.
Everyone was watching.
She wasn't sure how much of the story onlookers had gleaned from neighborhood gossip, but Donna heard cheers as she dumped all his wet clothing onto the pavement. She tried to arrange it into a female shape, but wasn't successful. She realized she had to make a statement he would understand, so she fished through the wet laundry, found the mini-slingshot panties, and displayed them neatly on top of the pile.
The now determined girl folded her sack, tucked it under her arm, and headed back to the apartment. Who knew where her next bag of dirty laundry would be coming from...