Our washing machine is broken—or, more precisely, half-broken, just like our marriage. It still cleans, it still spins, but something’s wrong with the drain cycle. When the machine shuts off, our clothes sit in a pool of water, sopping. I can throw them in the dryer, but then they take all day to dry. Or I can wring them out in the bathtub, twisting each pair of boxers, watching the water sluice down the drain. A load’s worth of laundry takes a good ten minutes to wring out; afterwards the dryer will run its normal length.
Which is a better use of time? Is the energy spent wringing out clothes worth the energy saved in dryer-running time?
“Do we really need to talk about Anna?” my husband asks our couples therapist Dorothy. “Isn’t it enough that I ended it?”
“Yes, we do,” Dorothy says, but she looks amused—we both feel for him on this particular point. I’m fucking sick of talking about Anna my own self. Her name has ruined certain words for me: animal, animation, I hate the sound in my mouth.
When our son broke his arm last year, his orthopedic surgeon told me putting on a cast speeds the process, but most bones would eventually heal on their own. I pictured Oliver’s bone knitting along the fracture, resealing itself like a zipper, a coagulating scab.
Do we need to process Anna? Do I need to stand in the bathtub, wringing out John’s wet, heavy clothes? It’s easier to throw them all in the dryer. Upstairs while I finish our taxes I listen, for hours, as his clothes batter around its hollow cavern: so loud at first, then muffled.
Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award and was published in March 2018. Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7.13 Books in 2019. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, JMWW, New World Writing, Sixfold, and many other journals. She is Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. Find more at www.kimmagowan.com