‘If Dignity were a wife’.

A piece I wrote a year ago for the magazine ‘Dundee Writes’ which unfortunately just missed out on being published. 

If Dignity were a wife.

            I enjoyed doing the washing. I really, really enjoyed doing the washing. I’m a woman and yes, maybe I’m in the minority with this but I don’t see how anyone could not enjoy the smell of freshly laundered clothes. My personal favourite, and something I kept for a treat, was to use the expensive fabric softener bought especially from Sainsbury’s. Unfortunately, I could not justify using any of it in this load of washing, so I reached for the regular store brand softener.

Todays laundry would have to be the kids. My two boys, Samuel and Noah, were born two years apart but were as close as twins would be. Samuel who was seven and Noah who was five were in a particularly muddy phase of playing.

It was autumn and their favourite game was to pile up all the leaves in the garden and hide in it until their brother passes then jumping out from under the foliage and hopefully scaring the unlucky sibling. This game however usually ended up with one, or both, rolling in the mud caused by this seasons heavy rain and eventually a pair of mischievous and muddy brothers.

I went from the kitchen to the boy’s room for their washing basket, knowing full well there would be no clothes in it, a skill they picked up from their father. No matter how many times I asked for clothes to be put in washing baskets they just never seemed to hear me.

It was annoying, not because I blamed them, boys will be boys after all, but because the washing baskets I had bought were beautiful and it was a shame to waste them. They were wicker baskets about two feet high. Tightly woven with a mahogany coloured lid which was made from a very light wood whose name escapes me, they were absolutely beautiful and matched the colour scheme of the house perfectly. A small victory when the main colours of choice for every room in the house by my husband was ‘blue’.

‘‘Light blue?’’ I asked, ‘’Or a darker blue? Perhaps Aqua for the bathroom and Midnight Blue for the bedrooms?’’

‘‘Just blue,’’ he grumbled with little interest.

I took it upon myself to ignore his colour scheme and chose a combination of browns and creams throughout the house. Everyone seemed happy enough with my choice, I put it to the back of my head that maybe, just maybe no one had even noticed.

The boy’s room was at the top of the stairs and to the left, just by the picture of my wedding day. Everyone was in the picture, my husband and I, my parents, his parents and our closest friends. It was a happy day, a very happy day. One of the happiest of my life, second only to the birth of my boys.

Odd that such a happy day would make my stomach tighten with a combination of fear and jealousy. I was not a smart woman or a particularly talented one either. I would never hold public office or write a best-selling novel in which I champion the rights of a beleaguered minority. I was a woman who took pleasure in the simple things in life, the smell of fabric softener and the colour of a washing basket lid.

Before my husband I had been happy and thoughtless. Before my husband I had been nothing more than a girl happy with her place in the world, neither fantastic nor tragic just where I was supposed to be. Now I was a jealous woman and an anxious wife.

I entered Samuel and Noah’s bedroom and noticed that there was no clothes around the room. I stood stunned slightly and went straight for the basket. Lifting the lid I saw a big pile of muddy clothes and my heart swelled. My husband must have done this. He must have come into the boy’s rooms before he left for work and collected all the clothes for me.

I felt elated, like a large constriction was loosened from around my chest, maybe this was the beginning of the end of our current rut. I bounded down the stairs like a Bride before her wedding day and imagined the future we could build now. Now that he was showing consideration towards me, towards our home, towards us, maybe now his love would grow back.

I barely remembered a time when I wasn’t switching from one extreme emotion to the other. Happiness was blazing for me now, a burning yet calming force that spread around my body. In opposition was the jealousy and sadness that stole my life and left me empty and isolated. Now though, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, now I could see the life that lay before me and the achievements to come.

I bundled the filthy clothes into the washing machine without paying much attention. What did I care if a white sock became slightly pink? Wasn’t pink the colour of love? The colour of comfort?

Then I saw, poking from between a pair of dirty underpants and a red jumper the corner of a shirt. I pulled it free from the washing as the dread began to spread. Spread from the pit of my stomach ever outward until it reached my heart.

The lipstick was plain to see on the mens medium sized shirt and as I moved it closer to inspect it, a whiff of expensive perfume, unmasked by the smell of dirty washing, reached my nose.

I bundled it back in the washing and set it to boil wash. Reaching for the expensive fabric softener I was generous in my measurement. I knew that in forty five short minutes the smell and lipstick would be gone. Washed away by the scent of expensive fabric softener.

Then a thought struck me. Plywood, thats what made the lid of the washing baskets.

Plywood painted mahogany.


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