I fell in love with your dirty laundry 

Truth in Fiction


Working in a laundromat is one of the dullest jobs on earth. To entertain herself, Dolores tries to imagine the lives of the strangers whose shirts she cleans, to the point of actually falling in love with one of them. Naturally, she must do what it takes to track him down.

Stain remover. 


Washing machine. 





Spin, spin, spin. 

Steam everywhere. 

Dry eyes. 

Rub, rub, rub. 

The smell of industrial lavender. 

I sneeze. 

So does the bottle. 

Coat hanger. 






Replace on the automatic hanger that turns as each client comes in, every second of every day, revealing the wine stain on the white shirt, the lipstick trace on the collar, and the white chalk mark on the tight black pants of that man’s suit. 

That man. 

Based on the clues, I’m convinced he’s a professor. A university professor, with the means of buying himself a linen suit that costs at least a thousand bucks, for whom it is no issue to spill Cabernet Sauvignon on every Tuesday (the suit bearing an abstract purple stain always gets dropped off on Wednesdays). This happens no doubt in some 4-star restaurant, right here in Jardins, in the company of women whose lips are sometimes plump, sometimes thin, sometimes Fuck-Me-Red, sometimes Nude-Not-Naked. I know because I have each one of the lipsticks that show up in the most obscene places of his chambray shirts. Not that I spend my free time sleeping around. 

It’s not as if I ever get the chance to. 

And it’s not as if I’ve ever actually seen the man’s face to legitimize my (“intense,” says my colleague Jinho) two-month investigation into the who, how, where and why of this person. But if I were to tell you that someone’s dirty laundry says more about them than a candlelit dinner (there’s always wax on his pants), would you believe me? Not that I’ve ever sat down to a candlelit dinner. Unless of course you count the time the power went out on us at my aunt’s pizza cone food truck. 

Ale Carvalho. Cleaning his clothes with chemical solution has shortened my life expectancy by at least 15 years. Why can’t he just come get them himself? It’s always the skinny girl with flowing hair who comes to pick them up and pay the exorbitant bill, of which I make about as much as those guys who sell bottled water and questionable candies at the traffic light on Tiradentes Avenue on summer days as hot and sweaty as Ivete Sangalo’s belly on the cover of the Banda Eva album. Remember the 90s, when beauty standards were still attainable without the need for plastic surgery?  Not that I ever got anywhere close to being so skinny.

Is that why Ale Carvalho never picks up his own dry cleaning? Does he just assume that the girls working in laundromats will never measure up to the former Gucci models that he’s used to dating? What an idiot. First off, the clothes are a pain in the ass to clean, and second, because ex-models—who retire at 25 because that’s the age the old men that take themselves for pro photographers deem old—need to make a living somehow. Especially after dropping out of high school at 14 to go live in the same flat with 15 other starving models. Or, perhaps he thinks that all of them can make a living by starring in drug store cosmetic ads, the ones that look like the pink fabric softener that I mixed one day with the orange stain remover powder and drank it to see if I could get high before my shift. 

No, unfortunately it didn’t kill me. And neither did the coronavirus. 

What did finally give up were the persistant reddish stains on Ale Carvalho’s 100% cotton boxers, stains that I’d been trying (and failing) to remove for months. Not that my life goal is to wash some rich smartass’s briefs. But when you have a job as boring as mine is, any challenge becomes a brightly lit Caldeirão do Huck Game Show stage. Do you have any idea what it takes to remove hemorroids from underwear? Since humiliating poor people is that show’s specialty, I should be a contestant. Hemorroids are when the veins in the anus dilate, bleed, and cause horrible pain. It’s most likely caused by the stress of him spending entire days with his ass glued to his chair, grading thousands of tests and preparing hundreds of class lectures. I shouldn’t even care, right? I know. Jinho tells me that all the time, but…hemorroids! That poor teacher. And these are not just any hemorroids. Nope. They’re big ones, the kind that hurt so much that the stains look like period stains. 

Too crude? Well, what is crude is washing the underwear of a man I’ve never seen before in my life but who I know everything about. Does Ale Carvalho even know the name of the person who broke the record for removing the stains left by his private parts in just 30 seconds? Dolores Ribeiro. AKA laundromat chick #3. AKA me. Me, who happens to know that each one of his suit pockets has a small hole from the pen he forgot to cap after correcting student papers. That the sleeves of his shirts smell like coconut milk and saffron, probably from accidentally dragging them through the plantain moqueca he has for lunch every Monday at Digaê Bar & Bahia (not that I’ve googled every Bahian restaurant in the neighborhood, far from it). A moqueca lover who shares, without knowing it, his secrets with me of all people. Me, a runaway Bahian in São Paulo pursuing a career as a blues singer and moving up in my imaginary career as a laundromat detective. A girl really can’t dream. 

A professor who loves wine, moqueca, and women. A womanizer, most likely. I’m sure he makes eyes at his students, that he gesticulates nonstop while explaining theories about who knows what as he upsets the contents of his glass, spilling wine on his Zara blazers (which I personally don’t recommend with the brand’s ties to slave labor and everything). Although I must admit that Zara cracked the code to making men look damn sexy. The professor’s hair falls to his shoulders and is probably brown and curly, guessing from the strands I always pull off the shoulder pads. Now that I think of it, his hair falls out way too much for someone who is probably only in his 30s. Has he been eating right? What’s obvious is between his active nightlife and alcohol consumption, he probably doesn’t sleep much. Does he take all these women to his flat? Where does he live? I’ve looked up his file. But the only address we have is from the Brazilian University of Education. I’ve never heard of a more generic name than that. Maybe Ale Carvalho wears expensive suits to compensate for his own academic shortcomings. And he does make up for it, too. He gets so many women…is Miss Flowing Hair one of his lovers? Or just an unhappy student who thought she’d be getting ahead in life when in fact she’s just doing chores for her professor who insists that it’s all a part of “character building?” The nerve of that guy! 

I’m not the kind of woman who does things for men, unless of course they pay me and provide a proper contract, with a bonus at Christmas and a month of paid vacation, this allowing me to finish recording my album, which I’ve been working on for four years. I swear, it will be a succession of hit songs. Songs about a love story I never experienced, or at least that lives outside my head. But it’s the imaginary romances that really makes you orgasm, because they won’t ruin everything by fucking you then showing up at a family dinner with one of your female cousins. No, the love I’ve never known is a perfect love; a Paulistano love that’s crazy, drunk, fast, with a beginning, a middle and an end but without an expiration date, living on forever in the mind. That little part reserved for when sparks fly on a summer day. The part that keeps us alive for the remaining 364 days of the year. 

I want to cum so badly. 

It’s been several months. I am dying to rub Ale Carvalho’s shirt over my whole body while my boss is busy screaming at Jinho by the dryers. I want to rub that sleeve where his fingers get all tangled up because he never opens the damn cufflink, glide it over my hair, my breasts, my pussy. Let my fingers protrude from the sleeve as if they were his own fingers and already knew all of my A, B, C, D, E, F, G sweet spots. Kiss his collar that has a woody fragrance leftover from last night, not to mention a pleasant, sweaty smell characteristic of men who never botch foreplay, who know what they’re doing and love what they do. It’s the kind of man who tells a woman she’s the most beautiful he’s ever been—no, not beautiful, sexy—the sexiest he’s ever seen. With brutal honesty. Ridiculously attractive. Just as a guy wearing a patterned silk tie is capable of saying. 

— Dolores, can you come help this lady here? Lucinha shouts while I finish hanging the last batch of Ale Carvalho’s clothes on the automatic hanger: habitual black linen suit, three white chambray shirts, five 100% cotton heather-gray briefs, and, strangely, a brown nylon gym top that always shows up with his stuff but that I have no idea who it belongs to. 

I run to the computer and open the client files. 

— Good morning. Do you have your order number? 

The client gives me the numbers and I type them into the computer. The system automatically finds the order: Ale Carvalho. 1 suit, 3 shirts, 5 briefs, 1 top. I glance up at the woman who’s there to pick up the order. Thirty-something. Sunglasses. Dark, curly hair tied up in a ponytail. Wearing a 100% cotton black men’s shirt, too large for her body type. Vintage dark blue jeans, straight, masculine cut, probably bought at a classic clothing thrift shop. Imported leather boots, recently shined. Pretty hip clothes for someone who’s not working on a Monday. What kind of person has a Monday off? This is definitely not the tiny, flowy-haired chick that usually picks up Ale Carvalho’s clothes. 

— Where’s Flowing Hair?

— Who? Leather Boots doesn’t understand my completely random remark. 

— The girl who always comes to pick up his clothes. 

Leather Boots stares at me, clueless. 

— Look, I’m in a hurry. 

— Of course, of course. My bad. 

I take the clothes from the hanger and put them in a bag on the counter. I stare at Leather Boots’ impatient expression from behind the counter. It’s now or never. 

— Sorry if I’m sounding totally pushy, but what’s he like? 

Leather Boots looks at me again quizzically. She ignores my comment and picks up the clothes from the counter. 

— Thank you. 

But I pull the clothes back. I can’t miss this opportunity. 

— Like, what does he say to you that makes you come get his clothes for him? Is it the Tuesday night dinners? The woodsy perfume? The pseudo-intellectual way he addresses his classes? What does he teach, by the way? I’d guess law or some shit like that, judging by the linen suits. People don’t usually care and buy those polyester suits that are too long and get all rumpled. 

— Who is “he”? 

My heart is pounding too fast for me to hear her. God almighty, I’m going to look like a complete perv and will probably lose my job right now but I need to know. 

— Is it the way he kisses? 

— Whose kisses? Who are you talking about? 

— Ale Carvalho. 

She looks at me. At the suits. At me again. Then something clicks.

Leather Boots bursts into obnoxiously giddy laughter. She flashes her large, white teeth framed by juicy lips that have no lipstick on them whatsoever, no Fuck-Me Red or Nude-Not-Naked. 

Are Ale Carvalho’s lips juicy like that? Do Ale Carvalho and Leather Boots lock into a perfect union of intrinsically coordinated mouths? That would be really surprising since she doesn’t look like a cute, girly, former Gucci model. 

— That’s precisely it, she says, mockingly. 

I immediately blush. She laughs again. I don’t know what she’s laughing about. If I was expecting clarification on this sudden public humiliation, I had certainly failed to get the memo. Now, I have gone from laundry shop detective to laundry shop perv. A girl definitely shouldn’t dream. 

The machine automatically prints out the receipt. But I don’t move. Jesus… that was humiliating. Leather Boots notices I’m not anywhere close to giving her the receipt, paralyzed as I am by my own torturous thoughts. 

She takes out a pen from her shirt pocket. An uncapped pen, whose tip fits perfectly through a tiny hole in the pocket. She signs the receipt with that wicked smile on her face that must have been drawn by a Renaissance artist, the chin perfectly symmetrical with high cheekbones and smooth forehead. Who does she think she is? 

— Look, just to make things clear. I’m not going after him or anything. 

She watches me, clearly enjoying herself. 

— You must understand that my job is extremely tedious. The highlights are when Jinho gets a satin garment stuck in the dryer fan or when I manage to remove a stain from a piece of underwear in under 30 seconds. So, like, don’t worry. Ale Carvalho only exists in my imagination. 

— Constitutional Law, but you were close, she says, sounding almost impressed. When is she going to stop thinking I’m a total idiot? 

Leather Boots peers into the bag full of clothes. 

— Thanks for the briefs. Flow is heavy sometimes.

Flow? What flow? The flow from seasonal hemorroids that burst religiously once a month? 

— As for the shirts. Perfect. 

— Cabernet Sauvignon is a good choice, but tell him to be more careful when he starts lecturing with a glass in his hand. Or maybe just scratch that idea. Otherwise, I’ll be out of a job. 

She laughs, intrigued. 

— You’re very good at this. Soon you’ll be guessing my credit status just from the brands. 

What does she have to do with Ale Carvalho’s choice in clothing brands? 

Realizing I still haven’t caught on, she takes her card from her pocket, asking how much she owes me. 

Snapping back to reality, I look at the screen. I tell her the amount. She hands me her credit card. Ale Carvalho’s name is on it. 

Wow. They sure are close. 

I try to act casual, but end up sounding like a stalker. 

— How long have you been together? 

— Uh, 31 years, I guess. Thirty, if you take out the time spent in my mom’s belly. She’s being ironic. I feel very embarrassed. 

— Oh, God. Ale Carvalho is your father? I’m sorry. 

She bursts into laughter again, with that smile so beautiful you can’t help but hate it. I was never one to take notice of a woman’s smile, unless it was to compare it to my own. What’s happening to me? And what am I saying that might reveal a natural comedic talent that could liberate me from this terrible job?

— You’re cute.

Consciously, I know I should have gotten very annoyed at this condescending remark. But my body decides to act independently of me, and I shiver all the way down to the nonexistent hairs behind my knees. 

— I’ll come pick up my clothes here more often, for sure. 

My clothes? 

And then it dawns on me. 

Constitutional Law professor. 

Menstrual flow. 

Credit status. 

Leather Boots observes as an avalanche of feelings traverse me, my expression changing as if I was in the middle of a bad series on Netflix, watching something lame and predictable yet impossible to tear your eyes from.

She laughs one last time and turns to leave. 

— See you next Monday, Dolores. 

And that’s when I watched Ale Carvalho walk out of the Raio de Sol laundromat. 

Knowing my name. 

Thinking I’m cute. 

Saying she’d come back. 

Never in my life have I wanted so badly to see how a woman looked in a man’s suit. 

Fuck-Me-Red and Nude-Not-Naked girls, I completely get how you feel on a dazzling summer day. I am you. 

And we are all pathetically in love. 

I don’t know when my legs decide to take control of my body, even though my brain screams at me to stick my head in one of those plastic bags and just suffocate myself to death under the counter.

I don’t know at what point my legs start running towards Ale Carvalho, who by this time is already turning the corner, clothes in hand, heading in the direction of Digaê Bar & Bahia, exactly 100 yards from the laundry shop. 

How can I in good conscience allow Ale Carvalho eat a plantain moqueca with her freshly laundered clothes tossed over her shoulder if she is incapable of savoring the impeccable Bahian cuisine without staining the fabric every time? I must save her from herself, and my legs know that. 

Or, they just need an excuse for me to feel less idiotic, even though I have never run after a woman before in my life. 

Even though I’ve never wanted to get to know everything about a woman before in my life.

Even though I’ve never wanted to feel a woman’s juicy lips on mine so badly in my life.


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