Spin, spin, spin.
Rub, rub, rub.
The smell of industrial lavender.
Both the bottle and I.
Put it back on the automatic hanger that turns as each client comes in, every second of the day, with each wine stain on a white shirt, with each lipstick trace on a collar, with each white chalk mark on the tight black pants of that man’s suit.
From the evidence, I’m sure he’s a professor. A college professor, able to afford a linen suit that costs no less than a grand and makes no bones about spilling Cabernet Sauvignon on it every Tuesday – the suit with the purple, abstract stain always comes in on Wednesdays. That probably happened at some four
star restaurant right here in the Jardins, in the company of women whose lips are sometimes plump, sometimes real thin; sometimes Fuck-Me-Red, sometimes Nude-Not-Naked. I know because I have each one of those lipsticks that show up on the most obscene spots of his chambray shirts. Not that I go around fucking everyone.
Not that I have that opportunity.
Not that I have watched that man’s face in order to legitimate my (“intense”, according to Jinho at the dryer) investigation over two entire months of who, how, where and why. But if I told you that someone's dirty clothes reveal more about them than a candlelit dinner (there’s always wax on his pants), would you believe me? Not that I’ve ever had dinner by candlelight. Only if you count that time when the power went out in my aunt’s pizza cone truck.
Ale Carvalho. Cleaning these clothes with this chemical solution has shortened my life by 15 years. Why is it that this person can't pick them up himself? It’s always that skinny girl with the lank hair who comes to pick them up and pays this insane laundry bill that maybe gets me as much as those dudes get from selling bottled water and suspicious candy at the traffic light on Avenida Tiradentes on a summer day as sweaty as Ivete Sangalo’s belly on the cover of that Banda Eva CD. Remember the 90’s? When beauty standards could still be reached without the unfailing need for surgical intervention – not that I ever got anywhere so close to being as thin as that.
Is that why Ale Carvalho never comes to pick his clothes up? He just assumes that the girls who work at laundry shops will never measure up to the former Gucci models that he’s used to dating? What a dick. First, because that company’s prints are a pain in the fucking ass to clean, and second, because former models, who retire at 25 for reaching what old men who call themselves photographers consider old age, need to make a living somehow – especially having dropped out of school at 14 to go live in a single room with fifteen other starving girls. Or does he think that all of them can make a living by being in ads for b-grade cosmetics that actually look like the pink softener that I once mixed with the orange remover powder and drank to see if it would get me high before starting my shift?
No, unfortunately it did not kill me, and neither did the coronavirus.
But it finally did kill all the 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, any challenge becomes a brightly lit Caldeirão do Huck stage in my mind. Do you have what it takes to remove hemorrhoids from underwear? If humiliating poor people is that show’s specialty, then I’m a contestant. Hemorrhoids are when the veins in your asshole dilate, bleed, and give you horrible pain. It’s probably caused by the stress of spending the whole day sitting down, grading thousands of tests or preparing hundreds of class lectures. I shouldn’t even care, right? I know. Jinho at the dryer tells me so all the time, but – hemorrhoids. That poor teacher. And his are not just any hemorrhoids. Nope, big ones, the kind that hurt so much that the stains look like period stains.
Too intimate? What’s intimate is washing the underwear of a man I’ve never seen in my life but whom 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 delicate parts in just 30 seconds? Dolores Ribeiro. AKA laundry shop babe #3. AKA me. Me, who knows that every pocket in his suits has a small hole that accommodates the tip of the pen he always forgets to cap after grading a test. That the sleeves of his shirts smell of coconut milk and saffron,
likely because he accidentally brushed them against the plantain moqueca he has for lunch every Monday at Digaê Bar & Bahia (not that I’ve googled every Bahian restaurant in the neighborhood, as if). A moqueca lover unconsciously sharing his intimacy with me of all people, a runaway Bahian in São Paulo pursuing a career as a blues singer – and moving up in my imaginary career as a laundry shop detective. A girl really can’t dream.
A professor who loves wine, moqueca, and women. Probably a womanizer. Probably ogles his students. Gesticulates nonstop, explaining who knows what theory while moving his glass and spilling all of its contents on his Zara blazers that I personally disagree with because of slave labor and everything – but that damn store does hit the spot when it comes to making a man sexy. A man whose hair is down to his shoulders, probably. Brown and curly, probably. According to the strands I always remove from his suits’ shoulders – they actually fall out way too much for someone who’s probably in his 30s. Has he been eating right? With that much nightlife and alcohol consumption he’s getting little sleep, that’s for sure. Does he take all these women to his flat? Where does he live? I’ve looked it up in his file. But the only address is from the Brazilian University of Education. I’ve never heard a more generic name. Maybe Ale Carvalho wears expensive suits to make up for an apparent academic failure. And he does make up for it. He gets so many women… Is lank-hair one of his lovers? Or just an unhappy student who thought she’d be getting ahead in life when in fact she’s doing chores for her professor who insists on saying that’s part of her “character building?” The nerve of that guy!
I ain’t the kind of woman who does things for bros. Unless they pay me. On the books, Christmas bonus and a 1-month paid leave for me to finish recording my album that’s been in the making for exactly 4 years. But it’ll be a bop, I swear. Banger after banger. I sing about a love I’ve never experienced, at least not outside my mind. But imaginary love is the love that really makes us cum – because it’s not there to ruin everything after fucking you and showing up with your cousin for a family lunch. No, the love I’ve never experienced is the perfect love. It’s the paulistano love, crazy, drunk, fast, it has a time to begin, a middle and an ending, but no expiration date to the life it lives in your mind’s eternity, in
that tiny little space specially reserved for the sparks of a summer day. That keeps you alive on the other 364 days of the year.
I want to cum so bad.
It’s been months. I wanna rub Ale Carvalho’s shirt all over my body so bad while my boss is too busy screaming at Jinho at the dryer. I wanna rub the sleeve that his twisted fingers go through because he’s never even fucking unbuttoned it. Rub it on my hair, on my breasts, on my pussy. Slightly slip my fingers through it as if they were his, and they know exactly where all the A, B, C, D, E, F, G spots are inside of me. Kiss his collar that smells woody from the night before as well as of the pleasant sweat of those guys who don’t rush throughthru foreplay. WhoThat know what they’re doing. Who That like what they’re doing. Who That say to a woman that she’s the most beautiful they’ve ever – no, not beautiful, hot. The hottest he’s ever seen. Brutally honest. Ridiculously tempting. In a way that only a guy that wears a patterned silk tie could be.
— Dolores, can you help this lady here?! – Lucinha shouts while I finish hanging the last batch of Ale Carvalho’s clothes on the automatic hanger: his typical black linen suit, three white chambray shirts, five 100%-cotton heathered graygrey briefs, and, strangely, a brown nylon gym top that always shows up among his stuff but that I have no idea of who it belongs to.
I run to the computer and open the client files.
– Good morning. Do you have your order number?
She tells me the numbers; I type them on the computer. The system automatically finds the order: Ale Carvalho. 1 suit, 3 shirts, 5 briefs, 1 top. I look at the woman who’s there to pick them up. Thirty-something. Sunglasses. Dark, curly hair in a ponytail. 100%-cotton black men’s shirt too big for her body type. Vintage dark blue jeans, probably bought at a classic piece thrift shop, straight, masculine cut. Imported leather boots, recently shined. Hip clothes for someone who’s not working on a Monday. What kind of person has a Monday off? That’s definitely not the tiny lank-haired chick that always comes for Ale Carvalho’s clothes.
— Where’s lank-hair?
— Who? – Leather-boots doesn’t get 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, a question mark on her face. She decides to ignore me and picks up the clothes from the counter.
— Thank you.
But I pull the clothes back to me. I can’t miss that chance.
— Like, what does he say to you that you come here to pick up his clothes? Is it the Tuesday night dinners? The woody perfume? The pseudo-intellectual way he speaks in class? What does he teach, by the way? I’d guess some Law shit, judging by the linen suits. People don’t usually care and buy those polyester suits that get all soft and whose pants are way too long.
— Girl, who’s “he”?
But my heart is pumping too fast for me to hear her. God almighty, I’m gonna look like a complete perv and will probably lose my job right now but I need to know.
— Is it his kiss?
— Whose kiss? Who is he?
— Ale Carvalho.
She looks at me. At the suits. At me again. And some penny I can’t imagine drops for her.
Leather-boots bursts into an annoyingly delighted laughter. She shows those big, white teeth framed by juicy lips with no lipstick on 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 the perfect union of intrinsically coordinated mouths? That would be especially surprising, since she does not look like a cute-girly-former-Gucci model.
— It sure is that — she says, mockingly.
I immediately blush. She laughs again. I don’t know at what. If I was expecting clarification of my sudden public humiliation, I’d certainly failed at that. Now I’ve been promoted 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 retrieving the receipt anytime soon – that right now I’m paralyzed 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 damn smile on that face drawn by some Renaissance artist. A chin so symmetrical with her 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 having fun. — You have to understand that my job is extremely tedious, except when Jinho gets a piece of satin clothing 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 and will only exist in my imagination.
— Constitutional Law, but you got pretty close — she says, almost impressed. When is she going to stop thinking I’m a total idiot?
Leather-boots checks the clothes in the bag.
— Thanks for the briefs. Flow is heavy sometimes.
Flow? What flow? The flow from seasonal hemorrhoids that burst religiously once a month?
— As for the shirts. Perfect.
— Cabernet Sauvignon is a good choice, but tell him he has to be careful if he’s gonna blah-blah with a glass in his hand. Or maybe don’t. Otherwise, I’m out of work.
She laughs, looking curiously at me.
— 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 clothing brands? She realizes I didn’t get it and takes her card from her pocket. — How much?
I wake up from my daze. I look at the screen. I tell her how much. She hands me a credit card – it has Ale Carvalho’s name on it.
Wow. They’re intimate.
I try to seem casual. But I end up sounding like a stalker anyway.
— 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 ironic. I’m totally embarrassed.
— Oh, God. Ale Carvalho is your dad? 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 to compare it to mine. What’s happening to me? And what am I saying that’s so funny as to render me like some kind of breakthrough natural-born comedian rescued from this scuzzy job?
— You’re cute.
Consciously, I know I should have gotten very annoyed at this patronizing comment. But my body decided to act of its own will and I got chills all over. Even down to the nonexistent hairs behind my knees.
— I’ll come pick up my clothes here more often, for sure.
And then – the penny drops for me.
Constitutional Law professor.
My credit status.
Leather-boots watches as my face reacts to all these feelings tumbling as if I were watching a bad TV show – lame and predictable, but you just can’t stop watching.
She laughs one last time and turns to leave.
— See you next Monday, Dolores.
And that’s how I watched Ale Carvalho walk out of the Raio de Sol laundry shop.
Knowing my name.
Thinking I’m cute.
Saying she’d come back.
Never in my life have I wanted so bad to see how a woman would look in a man’s suit.
Fuck-Me-Red and Nude-Not-Naked girls, I completely get you on that summer day sparkle. I am you.
And we are pathetically in love.
I don’t know when my legs decided to take control of my body even though my brain screamed at me to stick my head in one of those plastic bags and die by suffocation under the counter.
I don’t know when they started running towards Ale Carvalho, who by now was turning the corner, carrying her clothes, heading for Digaê Bar & Bahia located exactly 100 yards from the laundry shop.
And how could Ale Carvalho eat a plantain moqueca with her just-washed clothes on her shoulder if she was incapable of savoring the impeccable Bahian cuisine without getting completely dirty? I had to save her from herself, and my legs knew that.
Or they needed to make up any excuse in order for me to feel less of an idiot. Even though I had never run after a woman in my life.
Even though I had never wanted to know everything about a woman in my life. Even though I had never wanted a woman’s juicy lips on mine so bad in my life.
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