There in the back of my red, dented hatchback was a pair of men’s underwear. Tiger-striped bikini underwear to be exact, and since I’d had no hand in putting them there, I was surprised.
But I did know who they belonged to. My tactophobe boyfriend and I were at the laundromat, and they must’ve fallen out of his basket. However, he hadn’t kissed me in the 7 months we’d been dating, and his choice in underwear was news to me.
It was not a pleasant surprise, and when I walked into the laundromat and saw him standing idly by a washer, my thoughts about him began to change.
Since he’d hadn’t kissed me, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him what I’d found. I left them in the car thinking that he’d find them when he put his basket back there to go home.
It was the longest two hours I’ve ever spent in a laundromat.
Tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I watched him in the rearview mirror get his laundry, shut the hatch, wave goodbye, and walk to his door. He turned and looked back. I waved and sighed.
Down the block I stopped the car and went to make sure they were gone. The underwear were still there.
This would never do. I mean, I had to go to work in the morning. At the bank. Anybody could look in that back window and see them. Now, if they’d gotten back there in the more traditional way, I might not have cared. I might’ve been thrilled to have proof my boyfriend found me attractive. But he didn’t, and I had no desire to add color that I hadn’t earned to my reputation.
Once at home I took a plastic bag, scooped them up, hid them in my laundry, and carried them upstairs to my apartment.
My roommate, L., and my friend, J., were sitting at our kitchen table when I told them about it. “Really?” they said. “Let us see!”
“Oh come on. Are you going to give them back?”
“I don’t know,” I said. What would I say to him at this point?
They laughed and laughed. “I wonder if he misses them,” said J.
“You should mail them to him,” said L.
“Wear them,” said J. Oh, they did think they were funny.
Finally, J said, “Where are they?”
“I threw them away.”
The two of them sat up straight. “Where?”
I knew they’d dig them out if I told the truth. “At Wal-mart,” I said.
“Wal-mart?” they asked.
“In a dumpster.”
If that boyfriend ever missed that underwear, he never said.
The photograph is of L. trying to show me a picture of my tactophobe boyfriend. This is after we broke up. The picture in L’s hand shows the tactophobe boyfriend and J, drunk, and exchanging clothes in the middle of a party. Oh, the things we don’t want to see.
In fiction, characters often refuse to see the truth. Or they don’t recognize the truth when they see it. The hard part, I find, is making the reader believe the heroine doesn’t see the truth and not make her an idiot in the process. Blind, but sympathetic.
Can’t you think of stories where you wanted to shake the main character and shout, “What? Are you kidding me? A 5-year-old could figure that out!” This is not the reaction I want.