THE PICTURE (shown above) should inspire your story’s setting.

THE THEME of your story is to be ‘CURIOSITY’.

I always hated this place.

It’s loud, and smelly, and vaguely damp. A necessary evil for those of us without the space or the money to have our own fancy pants washing machine. I could think of a thousand better ways to spend your day than blankly watching a spin cycle. Around and around. Endlessly.

It’s so uncomfortably…intimate. A sharp reminder of the invisible codes that bring us together. Hard to make friends when you disregard personal hygiene. So, everyone crowds together in this hot cramped room, and displays their otherwise private garments for the world to see. Our clothes say so much about us – and there are no secrets in a laundromat.

It’s violating.

The only way to distract myself and pass the time was to imagine the stories of the people I see.

Take the old man sitting across from me. He’s here every Sunday, and he always uses the same machine (second from the far right.) I’ve seen him come in and wait over an hour to use this particular machine. As far as I can tell, it’s no different to any of the others. I asked him once, and all he said was, “it works.” He’s not very communicative.

Surely, this is a man who doesn’t take many chances. Ex-military. A veteran soldier who values consistency, and trusts in his instincts. A man who needs everything done a very specific way. Maybe that’s why he only ever washes clothes for one; a few neat but faded linen suits. Singlets, only white. A half dozen pairs of socks, all the same colour. And a single dressing gown.

That explains why he’s always alone. It must be exhausting, living with a man like that. Clearly, his stubbornness and rigidity became too much for his poor, doting wife. Maybe he never showed her any kindness, or ever relented his hard exterior. Maybe he didn’t know how, and had too much pride to say so. I suppose eventually, she left.

I wonder how their kids are doing. I bet they didn’t benefit much from this strained relationship, either. It probably set a terrible example, teaching them nothing about mutual respect and compromise. It must have been a hard time growing up, and an even harder time building their own relationships, with no concept of shareness and intimacy. I wonder if they’re alone now too, resentful without really knowing why. I wonder if they spend their time making up stories about strangers at laundromats.

Regardless, I doubt the kids ever speak to the old man anymore. Maybe no one does, and with everyone gone, he holds on to the few constants remaining in his world. Like the washing machine second from the far right.

It’s sad, I know. But I see no other plausible explanation. The clothes tell all.