I shuffle into the laundromat dragging a large black plastic bag behind me full of comforters. I'm binding today and the increasing hair on my chin is dark black and visible due to me highlighting the gray with wet and wild megalength mascara. I'm wearing light blue Levi's with a brown leather two hole belt. My black Batman tee shirt is untucked covered by a dark blue Buffalo Bills hoodie covered by a green plaid sherpa zip up hoodie. My feet are clad in a worn out old pair of black Chuck Taylor's and my clothes don't match at all. I didn't plan on making a fashion statement for my laundromat excursion, just to appear as the man I am in public and the layers of clothing help.
I open the door and a small bell at the top tinkles, I find a washing machine, I open the cover, inside are repulsive remnants from other people's clothes. They have no name. I don't even want to guess what they are. I move onto the next machine, worse than the first. The third machine seems cleaner. I deposit my quarters into the slot, one by one they jingle and clink as they fall to the bottom. Jingle and clink, jingle and clink, the noise echoes throughout the laundromat as several other people chime in with their quarters in melodic refrain.
I'm acutely aware of the size of my hands today. I hate how undersized and feminine they look as they pop the quarters into the machine and pour the laundry soap in. The machine starts up with the sound of rushing water, and then settles into a low purring hum, keeping in sync with the other machines in the laundromat.
I sit down on a lightweight aluminum chair, it's cold on my butt. I let out a long sigh. I check out my surroundings. People in and out, doors opening and closing, magazine pages rustling and the never ending cycle of washing drying and waiting. There's a younger man with a full dark brown bushy beard, sitting at a rectangular table strewn with tabloid magazines, he's on the internet. A computer seems so out of place in this retro laundromat with 70's décor. He glances my way and smiles. I smile back wondering if he doubts I'm a man. I wonder what he's looking at on the internet. I shift positions in my uncomfortable silver chair.
The door opens, the bell atop it tinkles again, a young Mother with flaming red spikey hair and her son walk in. I can see the frustration in her eyes as soon as she enters the laundromat. I can see why. The boy is around 6 years old. He's a bundle of energy. He grasps two small toys in his little hands, the toys fall onto the floor as he grabs the sides of the aluminum laundry basket on wheels, he climbs up with one foot while the other foot propels him down the aisle. His short ride comes to a swift end when he crashes the basket into the washing machine. His Mother yells “Ezekiel, sit down!”
Ezekiel sits down next to me and says “Hi!”. I did not expect to speak to anyone here. I lower my voice to match my appearance. “Hi” I say, keenly aware of other people's reactions to my voice. “ Look at my toys Ezekiel shouts, they're a top and a robot and a...” his voice builds with excitement as he lets out a series of unintelligible sentences. “Cool” I mutter under my breath as he plays at my feet, all the while keeping up his string of nonstop utterances. His Mother glances over every few minutes, probably glad that she can go about her task of laundry without the boy's constant interruption.
Ezekiel gets up off the floor and takes a green and black toy watch off his wrist and tries to hand it to me. I have to speak a longer sentence now so I open my mouth and say “No you keep that buddy”. I turn to look at the man with the beard to see if he looks my way when I speak. He doesn't look, no one looks, no one knows but me.
Ezekiel doesn't even know. I'm just another guy in a laundromat on a Saturday afternoon. “Cmon honey,” his Mother grabs the little boy by the hand, he smiles at me and says goodbye. “Bye Ezekiel” I say, he looks back at me and smiles again. I smile inside over this encounter - the lonely little boy in need of attention, the lonely transgender man. I hope we both grow to become strong brave men. I ponder that thought for a moment.
I get up and pace, my foot accidentally kicks a bright orange scrunchie on the floor. A gray plastic garbage can sits in the corner, I go up to it and peer in. Atop the pile of trash sits a lace pink bra, I cringe, remembering the bra which held me captive for so many years. I gather my laundry up, choosing to dry it at home. I have had to pee for an hour now but there are no bathrooms at the laundromat. I breathe a sigh of relief and drive home.