I reached in the washer tonight and pulled the freshly laundered towels and articles of clothing from it. I brought them towards my face to breathe in the clean scent. And as I began the process of deciding what could be thrown into the dryer and what should be hung up, I was struck with a memory. One that is by far not the worst but it certainly plays its role in being a stark reminder of my years of abuse and loss at the hands of my monster.
It was in the first year of our marriage or so and a dear friend from college had recently moved nearby. I kept in touch with him here and there. He had attended our wedding and befriended my husband as well. I knew he didn’t have a lot of the comforts of home at hand and so I offered our little apartment as a reprieve should he need it. A place to find a warm meal or a free spot to do a load of laundry. This was in the early years when I still desperately believed in and loved my monster/husband. When I still was mostly myself.
My dear friend came over one evening and I showed him where the laundry room was located. As the water filled and the clothes began their cycle, we talked and reminisced of old times but I could tell something wasn’t right. He didn’t look well. I honestly could not tell you many details past that. I recall he became increasingly ill. I remember making him go lay down in the spare room. I know I was very worried about him. At some point he left. At some point, he ended up hospitalized. At some point, I realized he had left behind his clothing.
And so I pulled his clothes from the dryer. And I folded his shirts. And I matched his socks. I folded his pants. I touched his underwear. I made a neat little pile of his freshly laundered clothes because that is what you do. At least, that is what I did. And I laid it all in his basket and set it aside for when he was well and thought nothing of it except worry for my dear friend who wasn’t okay.
“YOU FOLDED ANOTHER MAN’S UNDERWEAR!?” he raged at me.
“Well, yeah…”, I thought.
A kind gesture turned into a nightmare. I remember being baffled. Confused. Worried I had done something terribly inappropriate. Trying to figure out where I had gone so wrong. Not sure I had done anything wrong or inappropriate at all. Trying to justify my behavior. Trying to figure out why I needed to justify it at all.
And without me even realizing it, I lost a dear friend. He came to collect his clean laundry and he was gone. He wasn’t the first and he most certainly wasn’t the last. Over the following years, I one by one had friends removed from my world. Some were forced out by my monster. Some I forced out unknowingly at the manipulations of him. Some I was convinced by him were somehow bad and so I willingly chose to remove them. Some removed themselves. Isolation. A slow and methodical separation of myself from all who held me dear. A dark hole where he could safely chisel away at all that made me human.
Funny that smelling a fresh load of laundry today reminded me of all this.
Funnier still that a couple years after I left my monster, I found myself over a thousand miles away from home and ran into my dear friend from years before. We hugged and we were shocked and we decided a pub was in order and we sat and we ate and we drank and we caught up. And I got to apologize to him for losing him and explain what happened. And he offered me grace and kindness and forgiveness. And now at present day, my dear friend has become one of my best friends.
And the funniest part? Turns out, folding someones underwear just isn’t that big of a deal.