October 7th
The Washer
by maritza montañez

My washing machine is broken. I would complain, but I always get cut off.

"My washer--"

They ask if it is in the building.

They ask if it is inside my apartment.

They tell me I am lucky, that I cannot leave, and I concede.


I place a teapot on the hot stovetop and throw a load of laundry in at noon. I go to my room, lie on my bed, and reach for the book beneath my pillow.

But I fall asleep.

When I wake up, my phone says it is three in the morning. I murmur a flurry of oh my gods as I fall out of bed.

Then I hear it. Rattling punctuated by thuds. I imagine my black pants stuck in the washer's rutters, the cotton polyester blend twisting and straining, losing elasticity while the button and zipper scratch the machine walls. I imagine the machine wrestling with my poor pants, overheating, and ultimately giving out like it always does. As I walk to the laundry closet, I resign myself to the fact that I will need to squeeze the water out of my clothes before drying them.

The machine won't open. I tug the lid but it gives me less than an inch. The machine has my work clothes-- I need them, and this is my fault.

I remember my teapot and tell myself I am stupid all the way to the kitchen. And I am stupid. If I weren't, I would have taken my clothes to the laundromat and everything would've been fine hours ago. If I had a better job with better pay, I wouldn't even be able to fit all my work clothes in one load.

The stove is off. The teapot is heavy and full. Someone must have come home and taken care of it. My stomach knots in what feels like dread, but I tell myself it is shame.

I have made them clean up after me.

I turn on every communal light and shut an open window.

The living room light flickers and dies.

The floor lamp dies.

The bathroom light dies.

The hall light dies.

I stare at the laundry closet, which still glows with the light of its bare overheard bulb.

The doorbell rings. I freeze and tell myself I am about to die. My fear is stupid though. It's paranoia. Someone has been locked out and I am keeping them from their bed by standing still.

I reach the buzzer and see no one on the screen, but hear rustling. I remember that the street door lock has been missing for months, leaving just one locked door between the building's mailboxes and apartments. If I were smart, I would have bothered my landlord about it more, but I am an idiot. I buzz the door open and wait.

Through the peephole, I see a man reach my door. He looks like he has been through a storm. He knocks and I keep waiting. He stares into the peephole and it feels like he sees me though he couldn't possibly.

He smiles and says, "I will fix your washer."

I do not want to let him in, but I need my work clothes and I remember that someone else must be home too. I decide I am wrong, and I reach for the doorknob.

It has been left unlocked. I tell myself to remind my roommates to lock up behind them, and I hate myself for the thought.

When I open the door, he comes in, goes straight to the machine, and props it open, dripping water behind him. I sit on the couch and tell myself it is fine. He will fix this, I will dry my clothes and the floor, and I will wake up early to iron. It is fine, but I text my roommates, "So sorry, but if any of you are up could you hang out in the living room with me? Someone is fixing the washer but I feel a little weird."

A flurry of responses from each of them.

"Traveling, sorry!"

"Sorry, out of town!"

"Also out of town, sorry!"

I need to leave. Knowing this makes me feel stupid.

I stand up and watch the man, whose arms are in the machine.

I say, "I'm just going to run down to the deli and get you a Gatorade."

He says, "I don't drink that."

I nod and say, "Well, I'll be right back though."

The door does not open when I try it.

"I will take care of the door," he says. I realize then that he is carrying a cleaning rag but no toolbox.

I nod again and walk to the kitchen sink. I see a knife behind the blender, and I turn on the faucet.

"I will fix that."

I turn and the man is in my living room, cleaning rag in hand. He looks like he is breathing very deliberately, but his breaths sound shallow and something rattles in his nose.

"No, I'm sorry. There's nothing to fix. It's just dishes."

His brow furrows and I add, "Maybe you can just deal with the door and head home? We shouldn't have called you at this hour. Whoever called you--"

He walks toward the sink and I jump away.

He turns off the faucet and cleans a plate from the sink with his rag.

I remind myself to breathe. "What's your name?"

"I used to live here."

"Oh," I say. "Where do you live now?"

He throws the clean dish to the floor and I scream.

"I do not live anywhere," he says.

Another dish crashes.


"I do not live," he yells.

Another crash.

"I am in the building."

And again.

"I am inside the apartment."


I cry.

"You are lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky little life."


In the morning, I wake up and unlock my bedroom window, but it does not open.

I hear rattling behind me, and I cry.

The washer is in my building.

Inside my apartment.

And I cannot leave.

Back to Oct. 6 | Back to Main Page | On to Oct. 8