—Like the laundry: I really couldn’t get a grip on that last load. I had decided to dump everything in all at once (there was so much and I had so little time), so in went EJ’s basketball uniforms and my de-elasticized bras and Dana’s period panties and Elijah’s boxer briefs. The washer cycled while I checked things off my to-do list for an hour (emails, bills, defrosting meat), but when I returned to take everything out, I found myself pulling and pulling—I mean seriously going at it with the machine—for ages. I was nearly diving in at one point.
The clothes hadn’t fully spun dry, so I was soaked and cold, but I stood there, yanking, and finding more than I’d actually put in. Things I thought I’d lost forever, like my favorite socks to wear to bed and a thong bodysuit I hated that pinched the rind of skin between my ass cheeks. I found a shirt my dad used to wear while working on his car and a funeral shroud the color of sandalwood that was rough and sopping. I had no idea whose it was and didn’t want to know yet.
After two more hours of this, the very last items I tugged free were the clothes I had been wearing at the start. I looked down at myself, shivering, to realize I had nothing on but my house shoes and a satin bonnet. The dryer was running and I could hear the garbage men pulling away from the curb. The reek of spoiled castoffs filtered in through the vent.
Upstairs, the kids argued over who would toast their Pop-Tarts first, until I remembered that I had no house and no kids and no husband—only a two-year lease that was set to expire on my birthday and an upcoming date with Elijah I’d been ambivalent about for weeks. He wanted to surprise me, but I don’t like not knowing what to wear.
Judith Osilé Ohikuare (she/her) is a poet, fiction writer, and former journalist from Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net 2023, published in CHEAP POP, HAD, and Variant Literature, and anthologized in Best Microfiction 2023. Judith is a 2023 Fellow at In Surreal Life and the Director of Special Programming & Communications at NY Writers Coalition.