Short Story: The Old Woman in the Laundromat

Thank God the council hadn’t ripped down the old laundromat. My machine had broken down and the repairman wanted to charge top dollar to fix it.

         The smell of body odour and cigarette smoke hit me the moment I opened the doors. The decaying eighties décor needed replacing and the rattling of the ancient machines was so loud you could hear it from my street. It was a pig of a place.

         Only one other person was there, an old woman who sat by a small table in the corner. Her eyes were focused on a candle that had almost burned down, and she was dolled up as if dining in a fine restaurant.

        ‘What’s the occasion?’ I asked, curiously.

        The old woman looked up at me and smiled. ‘This is the place I met my husband thirty-seven years ago.’ Her voice was sweet and joyful.

        I wanted to vomit. I hated hearing successful love stories considering my love life was far from perfect.

        I waited an hour for my load to finish its cycle. Her husband hadn’t arrived. In that time, I had learned her name and entire life story, at least before the twenty-first century anyway.

       ‘He’ll be here, don’t worry!’ Glenda insisted.

        It was 11pm when I finally left. Glenda’s husband was still yet to arrive but she sat there, smiling, reading what looked like an old newspaper. Her smile never faded. I would have been pissed!

       I returned to the old washing dump a week later. Again, I was greeted by that horrid smell. It soon vanished, replaced by a perfume I had smelt before. It was the same as Glenda had worn. Curiously, I turned towards the table in the corner. There was Glenda, dressed exactly the same. She looked up at me as if saying hello for the first time.

       ‘Why have you returned all dressed up again, Glenda?’ My curiosity had heightened to another level.

       ‘This is the place I met my husband thirty-seven years ago.’     

        Confused, I asked, ‘But didn’t you celebrate that last week?’

       Another voice interrupted our conversation. ‘Come on, Glenda,’ a man said, as he gently guided her away from the table. I looked at his badge. He was a nurse from the old folks’ home down the road. It was a slow process, but eventually Glenda and the nurse had left the laundromat. I hadn’t thought much of the old newspaper until I saw it lying on the table. I was intrigued. I checked the date: August 11th, 1997. I scrolled down to an article about a serious car crash that killed a man and injured a woman, leaving her with severe brain damage. It was the last sentence of the article that struck a chord with me.

          ‘‘Two councillors were celebrating their anniversary at the place they first met before the accident occurred.’’

         Tears rolled down my cheek. I had wondered why the council hadn’t ripped this old trash can down. Now I knew!

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