I sat perched atop one of the dryers in our apartment building basement, absorbing warmth, enjoying the rumbling spin of my clothes going round and round, the sound of a button on my jeans keeping beat to some unknown song.
Stuck in the middle of a Madison January, I was reading Melville’s epic tome, Clarel, the longest poem in American literature, a champion never to be matched at nearly 18,000 lines, ostensibly autobiographical, of a pilgrimage by the titular hero to the Holy Land.
You struggled in with your overflowing basket. How odd it seems we have no qualms about displaying all our dirty laundry for our neighbors to see when we’re dealing with our wash.
I tried bashfully hard not to look up and watch you load your variety of garments into the machine, but I couldn’t help myself. I savored each one.
The dryer rumbled on, and my thoughts turned traveling to yours rather than to Melville’s Holy Land.
Too shy to strike up a conversation or to ask for your phone number, I sat there chokingly silent, saw no ring or other sign of restricted access.
I remember your face, those focused eyes, sharp in their surprised of me as you realized I was watching you.
Not able to turn away, I saw your embarrassed smile as you hurriedly stuffed the rest of your garments into the machine before I could memorize each vital piece.
If I’d been given your number, and if we’d had them back then, I’d have blown up your cell phone.
Too bad, back then, not even answering machines to help.
All I could imagine as I sat there in the warmth and vibration of your presence was a phone ringing and ringing and ringing.
Even at this moment.
Laundry, literature, love, longing.