Distorte is a collection of stories written by Pierce Gleeson

Archives Contact



I washed some clothes the other night. Thursday. It didn’t go well. My trials were not the old clich├ęs of shrunken jumpers or pink shirts. I was just repeatedly undermined by my own mistakes.

The first load was whites. I had two loads, one of whites, one of colours, and would then dry them in the large dryer together. This was the general outline of the plan. There are four doors between me and the washroom. My apartment door, the front door of the house, the door to the yard (entry to the yard requiring exit through the front door and down the side street to the back alley) and then, within the yard, the washroom door. All are locked. I have a lot of keys.

In the interests of full disclosure, I do not have to unlock the front door on the way out, but do on the way in. For a short foray I do not have to lock my apartment door at all unless, as often happens, I do it automatically through forgetfulness. The yard and washroom door do not have to be locked while I am inside, but must be locked upon my exit to protect the belongings of my neighbours. Bicycles, clothes, etc.

The first blunder, upon arriving with my first basket-full, was that I had forgotten detergent powder. I ran upstairs to retrieve the box, only having to unlock one door (the front) in that lap. I found the necessary coins in my back pocket for the meter (only remembering I needed them in that moment) and set the wash going. Then back upstairs, locking behind me those doors that would not lock themselves. I took the basket with me.

Two hours later I returned (unlock, unlock, unlock) and loaded the whites into the dryer, hanging those items I did not want electrically dehydrated over my arm, and loaded a wash of colours, leaving the dryer off for now. Then back upstairs for two hours (lock, lock, click, lock).

When I arrived back two hours later to load and run the dryer I found that I had been feeding coins into the wrong box (someone had switched the plugs) and the colours wash had died some ten minutes after I set it going. Without any other options I changed the plugs back and set it off again. I stood and thought out the timeline for a few minutes. It was too late now to collect the clothes before twelve. The procedure was only possible in the hours between work and bed if everything happened promptly and without delay. I would have to sleep on a sleeping bag, as my bedding was sitting in the dryer, still wet. I could set the dryer running early, without the colours, but then I wouldn’t have the coins to dry them before work the next day. The air in my apartment was not, during last week, warm enough to air-dry. They’d start to smell.

I went back up for two hours, locking, and returned again, unlocking, to set the dryer going with everything in it at midnight. I slept upstairs in a dusty sleeping bag with the uncovered duvet over me, and did not rest well as a result. The next morning I rose and dragged on some half clothes and went out into the freezing morning to retrieve my laundry so that I could dress for work.

I haven’t really elaborated yet, I know, on the crux of this whole story. I hope you’ve hung on this long. The important part is this: every time I would unlock or lock a door, on one of those multiple trips to the washroom, I would pull my wallet from my pocket to get at my keys. The keys hang on a loose ring, and when extracted the bunch jangles loudly, like a baby’s toy. This is normal. It’s how it’s always been. But as my night and morning of unnecessary journeys progressed, the rattle of keys began to aggravate my growing irritation. It seemed to mock me, becoming louder with every deployment. In the days following I experienced an intense discomfort at any time I heard the noise. Like nails on a blackboard. I would wince and try to cup them with my hand, letting as little music out as possible. It was an audible signifier of every damn thing wrong with me. A Pavlovian trigger for stress and self-disgust. I’m going into too much detail, I know. About the laundry. About the keys. This is far longer than it should be. I just can’t think of any other way to convey how your voice has been sounding to me lately.

Written by Pierce Gleeson
Posted on the 18 Jan, 2010