It was a grey and dreary Wednesday morning, the kind of Wednesday morning that makes me long for the life of a robot. A lesser philosopher might condescend to the robots, commiserate with them on the heartbreak of being a form of matter that can never dream and never know love. These philosophers have never learnt to think outside of the box, because for their whole life they have been told that what they think is outside the box is outside the box, when, in actual fact, what they think is outside the box, is actually firmly inside the box. Am I making sense here? I yearn for the non-life of the robots. Their existence is much like mine, we both do mundane, repetitive tasks every day. But at least the robots have the benefit of not being sentient while they do it; they’ve been unburdened from the agony of knowing just how bored they are every single day.
My usual routine on a Wednesday morning, in fact, my usual routine of every weekday morning consisted of waking up, inserting breakfast, and opening my laptop to the gaping maw of my interminable middle class job. I recall reading an article about disaffected Taliban workers that now no longer fight in combat since they have overthrown the American-backed regime, but now feel crushed by the tedium of their office job. I thought about that most days, there wasn’t much else to think about. Thinking about how similar I am to the Taliban worker that penned that open letter used to make me smile, but I had become numb to the chuckle-worthy relatability and it became just another bullet point in my morning routine. Wake up, insert breakfast, open laptop, think about how Taliban soldiers and I aren’t so different after all. When would it fucking end? Yes, maybe some people have it worse than I did, maybe I don’t care, that’s not my problem, it’s also not the point of the story.
Two things broke my morning routine this Wednesday. One was a knock at the door by a kindly, old Jehovah’s Witness. The other was that I had to do my laundry because I was starting to run out of socks. Guess which one this story is about. No, you can’t look back at the title, in fact I’m going to change it to something that doesn’t give the answer away.
That’s right, it was the laundry one. So after I had given the shortest of shrifts to the Jehovah’s Witness (I did not know that I would, one day, come to write a story about this Wednesday morning, if I had, I probably would have talked to the Jehovah’s Witness for longer, it might have provided better material), I returned to my laptop for a few minutes, before hearing the insistent beep of the washing machine, and, relishing any excuse to get up from my desk, I went downstairs to unload the hatch.
Letting my thoughts carry me away to a distant island, one where I didn’t have to do laundry because the only clothing options were constantly replenishing grass skirts and coconut bras, I started carefully draping my clothes over the drying rack. I was happily away in my anti-laundry mind palace until I looked down. The next item at the top of the heap in the laundry basket was an unusual one: a pair of women’s underpants.
Jesus Christ, here we go, I thought. Where did these come from? I surveyed them, they weren’t a pair that I’d seen before, which isn’t saying much. It was very possible that my girlfriend brought them over and carelessly threw them into my laundry hamper, unaware that I wanted to keep boundaries between us in our relationship that sharing laundry was in direct violation of. I know what you’re thinking, it is a testament to the lack of options available to young women these days that someone as hateful as me could have had a girlfriend. But that’s just the world we’re living in, women can’t even find a loving man to share their underwear with so they have to settle for the “Maybe I can change him” archetype and try to enact that change through an unspoken attempt to get him to do their laundry. And still, I didn’t recognise this underwear staring back at me from the laundry hamper.
I will not describe the underwear here, this isn’t that kind of story. To do so in prose could only serve to satiate and kowtow to the swathes of perverts reading this, which I know are a large contingent. My online audience consists of half perverts and half hedge fund managers that aren’t doing anything at their job and are reading this to pass the time in order to feel vaguely like they are engaging with art as they slowly whittle away the most important years of their life chasing the almighty dollar. To be honest, there’s probably a fair bit of crossover between those two demographics, regardless, I will not please either of them by going into detail on the brand, colour, or cut of this underwear.
There were a few possibilities here, so I wanted to explore them as fully as possible. The longer I spent staring at my laundry, the longer it was until I had to resume work. As mentioned before, it was possible that they belonged to my girlfriend, the simplest answer usually being the correct one. She had probably haphazardly taken her pants off in a fit of passion and paid little mind to where they wound up, another characteristic of hers that was irresistibly driving a wedge between the two of us. I could have texted her then to check, but what if I was wrong? Another alternative was that they were hers and that she had planted them there, knowing I wouldn’t recognise them as hers, she could then have ‘found’ them in my laundry and caught me red-handed. “Who do these belong to?” “Are you cheating on me?” etc. The second half of her plan had probably promptly slipped her mind. She often did this sort of thing, began a plan to stoke the flames of our tepid relationship before losing the drive and resigning herself to our current stagnant situation forever.
Then there was the less likely explanation, but it still needed exploring, because, once again I was killing time here so that I didn’t have to carry on working. The less likely explanation was that I actually did cheat on her. I looked at the facts. Number one, I had a pair of strange women’s underwear in my laundry. Fact. Number two, I was naturally charming so it was possible that I had met and seduced a woman, taken her home with me, had beautiful sex, woke up in the morning, volunteered to do her laundry and then completely forgotten about it by the next day. Fact. Number three… I guess that was it, and the second fact, while a fact, wasn’t exceedingly likely. Now that didn’t necessarily mean I hadn’t done it. But I certainly didn’t feel like I cheated on her, it didn’t seem like something I would do, which tracked because I didn’t remember doing it. So, if I didn’t remember cheating on my girlfriend, I had never cheated on her before, and I had had no desire to cheat on her, it was probably not worth pursuing that as a likely origin story for the underwear.
The last option is that my flatmate, who did laundry before me, happened to have left a pair of his girlfriend’s underpants in the washing machine, maybe they just had that kind of relationship that I plainly did not have with my girlfriend. It wasn’t hard to imagine him mistakenly missing one small item when he collected his laundry at the end of a cycle. But that raised the possibility that I had just spent the last few minutes pondering this while staring at every inch of my flatmate’s girlfriend’s underwear, so I discarded that option because it wasn’t very pleasant to consider.
I decided that it was worth gambling on the most likely explanation and henceforth opted to take a picture of the underwear, held up to the light, in order to send it to my girlfriend, accompanied by the faux-casual caption “Yours, I assume?”. But unfortunately, as I was putting the manner to bed in this fashion, my flatmate walked into the room. Not the one I’ve previously mentioned, the other one, the single one, the one who thought he was funny and was bound to enjoy the spectacle of me taking a photo of a pair of women’s undergarments. He laughed at me as I took a snap of the pants. I was embarrassed putting them down but a quick cursory check while he was still laughing confirmed that, despite my panic, the picture came out unblurry. I sent it to my girlfriend with the aforementioned caption, my flatmate laughing all this time.
This was an absolute worst case scenario, this is why I hadn’t wanted to pick them up, I wasn’t a sex criminal! I’d been caught red-handed in a way that I totally did not expect, it was one thing to be seen with a pair of women’s pants, but entirely another to be taking a picture of them.
“Whose are those?” My flatmate asked, once his incessant laughing had subsided.
“Whose do you think?” I said, hoping the rhetorical nature of this question meant he would feel stupid for not assuming it was the most obvious answer, which in turn would mean that I did not have to commit to an answer. Still, if pushed I knew I had to brazenly pretend they belonged to my girlfriend at this point. Anything other than my complete self-assurance in the owner of the pants I just took a picture of would be catastrophic, and she was the most likely option. If I didn’t seem confident in my knowledge of to whom they belonged it would, at best, be seen as weakness. At worst, evidence of sexual misdemeanour against our mutual flatmate’s girlfriend or one of any number of other girls whose underwear could have found its way into our flat.
“They’re Katie’s?” (This was the name of my girlfriend, I realise her name hasn’t come up until this point in the story, which probably demonstrates the lack of respect I held for her) That was it. He had picked a lane for me, it was the point of no return. I had to commit to the lie that I definitely, as a matter of fact, knew these belonged to my girlfriend. It could have backfired, I could have found out that they belonged to someone else, but at this point, I’d been backed into a corner and was willing to risk it.
“Of course they’re Katie’s! Whose do you think they are?” I replied, scornfully. “Who else’s underwear do I have access to?” This was a very unsexy way to describe being in a monogamous relationship. Of course, if you’ve been following you know that I thought I could theoretically have access to all sorts of underwear, but he hadn’t done the same mulling over in his head that I had done in mine. I held all the cards. And where I held them was close to my chest. “What do you think I am? Some European lothario going around seducing women and robbing them of their underwear to keep as a trophy? Why the hell would I be holding a pair of pants that belonged to anyone other than my girlfriend?”
My flatmate shrugged this off and walked into the kitchen. Presumably he took this outburst as yet another reminder not to bother talking to me or trying to joke with me, when I am so visibly on the up-slope of a mid-life crisis that, by current estimation, will take all of thirty years to complete. As he left the room, I felt a buzz in my pocket and reached for my phone, I saw the message from my girlfriend. “oops yeah. theyre mine, sorry i must have left them at yours”. The relief at not having just sent a photo of another woman’s underwear to my girlfriend was minimal and largely secondary to the annoyance I felt at her insistence on typing everything in lower case. Leaving underwear in your boyfriend’s laundry basket and refusing to put capital letters at the start of a sentence, two marks of an absolute world-shattering lack of self-respect. I hung them up on the drying rack, to give them to her when I next saw her. And that was that sorted, then it was on with the rest of the laundry.