The Laundromat - New Washing Machines
& Driers - Open 24/7
A laundrette in down town New York is just like a laundrette anywhere else in United States. Usually busy, where gossip from girlfriends gets lost within the continuous whirling sound from the washing machines and you catch only random words in the air.
“He left her?”
“She’s a bitch.”
“Norman and I...”
The thick hot moisture from the washing permeates the air and clinks like a second skin and the eyes if not resting on a random page of a beat up book or mag, they are fixated on the circling trajectories of socks and bras, skirts and trousers all moving together, some haphazardly flying from one side to the other behind the heated glass.
That’s exactly how it is everywhere and that’s how it was inside “Laundromat – New Washing Machines&Driers – Open 24/7” most of the times too.
That Saturday night though, on July of the year 1952, which was an exceptionally warm night for the New Yorkers I might add, was somewhat different. Not that much different, but the usual hubbub of the laundrette which was most like a permanent feature in places like that, wasn’t there.
It was almost empty and what did you expect, it was Saturday night and it was New York, most people were out and about enjoying their weekend. So yes, it was almost empty...apart from a young woman, who was sitting patiently, washing bag resting next to her on the wooden bench which was fitted at the back of the shop, overlooking the whole place. There were a few machines running and their constant buzzing and swirling was clashing with the sound of rock ‘n roll songs coming out of a small radio with the volume set on “modest”, probably a forgotten “gift” to the shop from one of its frequent visitors.
Candy pushed a few blond curls which had fallen in front of her face, back behind her ears and continued to read one of those celebrity gossip rags that were recycled in the laundrette until a fresh batch would arrive with the new circulations.
Now, not knowing anything else for that Candy woman, you’d think she had no life in order to find her washing her clothes on a warm Saturday July night and in part that was true. Given that she was raised by nuns, although her behaviour was compulsive a lot of times, when it came to partying and dating, she felt like a fish out of the water. But in all honesty, not many people would dislike Candy or think of her as not cool, simply because she had a really good soul and she’d help anybody and I mean anybody – even those that didn’t deserve the help – on an hour of need.
Candy was a nurse and a forever beginner on house chores, she just didn’t have it in her, she wasn’t organised enough and because of her usual exhausting nursing timetable and her disorganised personal life, she usually frequented the laundrette on Saturday nights or Sunday lunch times on other occasions.
She lifted her head up, magazine was sorta boring but she wouldn’t have long to wait still. It was only five minutes ago she had put the clothes to the drier. Her green eyes swept the area, all stood the same. She got up and walked towards the radio that was left on a washing machine next to the shop window. She kinda wanted a distraction and putting the volume up on that radio program would help. In a split second, the music triumphed against the sounds of the machines and her stare left the laundrette and started to travel with the people who were walking hurriedly outside on the pavement.
Usually her stamina would keep her up on her feet on a long day such as this, first getting through a day-long shift at the hospital, come back home early evening, cook something quick for dinner, get her laundry down, get the floral scented clothes back up to her apartment, have a shower and fall asleep with a book laying open on her chest. Today she felt really tired, so much so, she was considering of giving the shower a miss which was not something she considered often given that rinsing the smell of hospital antiseptic off her body was always a welcome change at the end of her day.
She took a big yawn and left a hurried sight at the end of it before turning her attention to the radio station jingle.
“Doop-it, doop-it, doop-it-doop-yeee, W-A-B-Ceee, Stereo New Yooork”, sounded loud and clear in all its frantically merry character before the deep nocturnal voice of the DJ came to announce the next song.
She turned and moved to the direction of the bench where she was seating a few minutes ago all the while throwing a quick glance to her clothes being tossed inside the drier. She sat down, stretched and crossed her legs in front of her, letting her back rest against the wall behind her before taking the mag she was reading back to her hands.
“Another cool song from Jimmy Forreeest”, the DJ dragged his voice lazily over the airwaves, “It’s Night Train on WABC, Stereo New York – Hope to keep cool guys cuz it’s a hot night tonight”, he finished the intro before he let the song play.
The song started with a bell and a whistle and the sound of a train starting to move on rail lines. And right on that moment, just as the radio whistled like a train, the bell on the door rung, someone had come in. I remember I had said that that particular night was somewhat different...although I forgot to mention that the arrival of that fella – because that person who entered the place was a fella - all of a sudden inside that laundromat drove the unexpectedness to fictional levels. However, it’s a true account despite its unbelievability factor and I know that because I’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth as they say, Candy had narrated the exact same story on one of our nursing shifts in the hospital.
Candy glanced up and saw the guy who had come in. He seemed like he hadn’t noticed her yet which suited her perfectly provided that her mouth remained open for more than it was socially acceptable but her surprise could have been classified under “immense” because let me tell you this dude was goddamn downright gorgeous and I don’t give a dime for my not so feminine language because the truth of the fact was that he was a more than a fine specimen of the male gender.
Given Candy’s long stare, she understood that the guy must had been in some sort of an accident or a fight maybe because although his face didn’t seem beat up or anything, his clothes were quite soiled up, as if he was rolling for quite some time in the middle of a dirty backstreet. His lean strong figure didn’t hesitate when he entered the laundrette and with a swagger that oozed confidence or even arrogance – or maybe was he a tiny bit drunk? I wouldn’t know exactly, I think I remember Candy saying of getting a whiff of alcohol at some point - he moved towards one of the empty washing machines.
And then the unexpected happened. This was surreal and to add my own criticism funny as hell, but the guy once he reached the empty washing machine, he started undressing in front of Candy’s wide like saucers eyes. She knew she shouldn’t stare like that, in fact she should keep concentrating to the mag which lay open between her hands, completely abandoned at that moment but she couldn’t help it. He took his tight white T-shirt off first. The raunchy sounds of “Night Train” complemented perfectly what was happening inside that place. Candy was like she was having her own private male striptease, I kid you not, and her heart raced to her mouth, refusing any attempts to calm down. She couldn’t say whether it was excitement or fear but that racing heart of hers made her feel like she was out of breath. He was also wearing a pair of deep blue jeans with the revers rolled up like most of the guys around. He pushed his shoes off with the help of one foot at the time, pulled his socks off and promptly repeated what he had done with his T-shirt. And then, he unbuckled his belt and pulled his jean down. If there was a moment to faint, for me that would be the one, but Candy is a much stronger gal that I am.
Once he had chucked all garment items to the washing machine and himself had remained with a pair of white boxers he stopped as if a sudden thought lit on his mind. With a swift move of his fingers through his dark long hair – yeah, I forgot to mention that the young man apart from his clothes, didn’t really look like most guys out there, he was definitely not a greaser with no ducktails or sideburns on sight, just long dark, almost black, wavy hair which you can believe set him apart in a second from the Elvis clones that walked the streets – he turned and looked at Candy.
“Got a quarter?”, he asked her.
Just to give you the degree of how unreal he was, his voice matched his looks down to a tee. Smooth, almost velvet voice, with a strange twang in his accent from which you could tell that he had lived for quite some time in New York but this city wasn’t where he grew up. His move, not to mention his question was so unexpected, it didn’t register with Candy for a minute, so she kept looking at him. Only when he started walking towards her and she heard him speak again, only then she woke up from whatever trance he had put her under.
“Hello?”, he said again.
She blinked her eyes fast.
“Excuse me?” she said, sounding more than usually surprised.
“Have you got a quarter?”, he repeated his initial question only a bit slower this time, and added “For the washing machine”, revealing the reason for his question.
She just managed to utter an “Ohh!”, before her body moved and she shoved her hands deep inside the pockets of her light blue polka dot dress, in search for any change left. A few seconds later, her left hand surfaced, holding a quarter which she gave to him without any questions to follow. She heard him thanking her, and took the coin. He walked back to the washing machine, and pushed the money into the slot, before turning the thing on. He left a big breath, looking satisfied for some reason, and he walked back to where she was seating. He let his body fall next to her on the bench, he laid back his back and head to the wall and closed his eyes while crossing his arms to his bare chest. She couldn’t do nothing else but steal glances, observing him, while he seemed like he was resting. He wasn’t full of muscles but what was there was good enough to keep her looking. Especially his face. Gentle but strong features, porcelain skin, full lips, determined jaw with just a five o’clock shadow covering it, long straight nose and the fullest dark eyelashes she had seen on a man.
She doesn’t remember how long she stayed glancing at him but at some point, his face turned to her and she found a pair of deep blue-green eyes peaking through fallen strands of hair.
“Since you keep looking at me, I might introduce myself”, he said and before she could say anything in return, he said “Terry Grandchester” and extended his hand for an introduction shake.
Candy could not believe what was happening because although the initial event was mighty unexpected in its own right, every single thing this guy, Terry, did, was pushing her amazement even further.
“Excuse me?!!” she said again for the second time in the evening.
Leaving his hand suspended in mid air while Terry was waiting for that hand shake, possibly unfazed by the surreal of his actions, Candy’s eyes sparkled.
“Looking at you?!!” she said and repeated the same thing right after. “You stroll in here, undress, and sit next to me in just your underwear and you’re telling me, I’m looking at you?!!”
I have to tell you, when Candy’s mouth started, it was difficult to the best of times to shut her up and I know from experience at work.
“Why don’t you have a walk outside, just like you are now mister Grandlester or whatever you name is, and check out whose gonna look at you, because I can guarantee you, everyone is gonna look at you”, she continued.
A faint smirk was starting to dawn on his face and that pushed Candy further.
“So I suggest mister, if you don’t want to be looked at, better to stay at home if you like to prance about in your boxers.”
But that guy could as well as being an alien from outer space because he just moved his face so close to Candy’s face that she turned almost cross eyed. That’s when she smelled the whiff of alcohol in his breath and by instinct she pulled back, just enough to be able to see him straight in his eyes. She tells me even now, how she couldn’t forget those eyes. Sparkling playfully, like they were making fun of her reaction but so goddam sexy too – although this last sexy bit is my own addition, but give me a break, a girl needs to imagine a bit alright?
“They say that freckly girls are always feistier, I like that”, he mocked her.
At that time, the drier with her clothes had finished its business but she stayed frozen to her place for a few seconds, staring back at him, like two cockerels getting ready to enter a fight.
“Un-be-lie-vable”, she said through clenched teeth and with that, she sprung right up, grabbed her washing bag from the bench, confirming that for her, this conversation with that smart alec – and maybe even lunatic you could say – it was over.
She walked quickly to the drier, opened the door and with hurried moves shoved all her clothes in. Without turning to look at him for one last time, she turned her back to him and started walking towards the door.
Just a few steps into her walk, she felt a hand on her shoulder stopping her. Now, the annoyance his words caused was verging to real anger and she prepared herself to unleash a tirade of insults when she turned to see him, only to find him holding a pair of her knickers, her favourite silky number as she said, him having a wide pretentiously innocent smile on his face, damn he was gorgeous!
“You forgot these, Freckles”, he said.
Candy grabbed her knickers from his hand in a flash and shoved them into the pocket of her dress.
“My name is Candy White you lunatic!” she said and with a huff she turned back and walked the rest of her way to the door.
“Goodbye and goodridance mister Grabchester or whatever”, she said before getting out of there.
He rushed to the door while Candy had started walking with fast steps on the pavement.
“It’s Grandchester sweets”, he shouted, closed the door and started laughing her heart out right there and then.
It’s been a while since then and let me tell you, my friend, Candy, besides her seemingly angered behaviour, she never forgot that strange, Terry Grandchester guy. Boy, how I wished those things happened to me, I tell ya. For a while I frequented ever so often that laundrette that she had told me about but naah, who am I kidding, those things are more or less like fairy tales. They happen so very rarely, you can hardly believe them when they do, but indeed those things do happen once in a blue moon...a very rare blue moon that is...trust me.