May 17, 2006

Wolf in the Laundromat

He sits in his car, with the door open, his long legs hanging out of the car...his shaggy head bent over a newspaper. He looks up as I walk by with the first of four baskets. He smiles and my heart pinches, shrinking in on itself. He is a predator. I know this when he smiles.

You see, the predator cannot be distinguished by any physical quality. He can take the shape of any man. You can't see it in the cut of his clothes, the style of his car, his walk, or the way he styles his hair. There are no tell-tale outer markings. He can wear a business suite and languish comfortably in board room chairs. He can coach children's soccer. He can wear the collar of God. He can run on the night streets and howl. He can breathe comfortably in the smoke of bars. He can stretch in the sun-warmed flesh of an athlete. He can rest inside the mind of the intellectual. It is a complex and subtle play of movement in his smile or in his eyes that reveals the predator inside.

A change in the eyes, quick, like the flash of a lightning bug in the dark heavy air of a summer night. There and gone. You peer, trying to predict when it will flash again, wonder to yourself if you imagined it.

I watch him out of the corner of my eye as I walk past, waiting for it. There, again...a certain hunkering of posture, a feline liquid swivel in the neck. And then the smile. So close to revealing the animal within that my skin begins to hum like a tuning fork, in tune with the hint of growling down deep in the throat behind his smiling teeth.

The children run up ahead of me into the laundromat, settling themselves into the blue cushioned seats below the television set that hangs in the corner. They crane their necks to see the cartoons playing.

"You have a lot of laundry there," he says as I pass with the third basket. This is what he says. But his smile says, "I see you. I see your small frame, and your tiny hands. I could take you in here, fold you in my strong arms, secure, and then tight. Devour you, take you inside to warm my empty belly. When your life slips away and you have moved from warm to cold, I will spit out your bones and slip into the night. I have time, child...I am patient."

I smile back, "Yes, two kids generate a lot of laundry."

Inside, I drop the basket on the counter, breathing in the humid perfumed air of the laundromat. I go back for the last basket.

"More?" he feigns surprise and lifts one eyebrow to emphasize it.

I nod and continue past him, careful not to walk too close...careful to keep my scent from his nostrils.

This time as I approach with my basket, he doesn't look up. He is bent over his paper. I come closer, closer still, and just at the moment he could look up to meet my eyes, he rustles the paper.

With fast feet I move past. My skin prickles and I imagine his hot breath chasing down the curve of my neck and spine. When I turn to look, he is still there, in his car, looking at me...smiling.

Inside I am safe in the company of flourescent lights and the mellow rhythm of the washers and dryers. I begin to sort the clothes into their piles of color and delicacy. Hot pinks and reds, denims and greens, stark whites for the hot bleach wash, and cashmere and silk for a gentle machine.

Suddenly his shoes are there in front of me. I stare at them while my hands continue their work. The shoes are brown, soft and worn. They are harmless. Those shoes can't tell you he is a predator.

My eyes move up to the denim swathed legs. His jeans are clean and unassuming. The faded blue kind that anyone can wear, and everyone does. Nothing there to indicate that underneath pulses the blood of a predator.

My eyes continue upward, to his chest and the earthy flannel shirt that rests atop muscle and flesh. It is buttoned nearly to the throat, above which is exposed the suntanned column of skin that leads to his chin.

There...it is there, in his smile. The wolf smile. I feel the flash in his eyes and look up to catch it, but it is gone.

"I hate having to come to the laundromat", he says. "It's such a process. Such an event, you know?"

But his smile says, "I like the smell of your fear. If I turn my head just so, close my eyes, I can imagine what you would be like. I am patient. Just stand there, let my idle chatter distract you as I step closer, until you feel the warmth, and it is too late. No need to get to know me, I am pure instinct. No need to get to know you, you are but trembling flesh."

"Mmmm", I hum in agreement. I work at ignoring him. He retreats to the vending machine, pondering the selection, inserts his money and retrieves a soda. I watch him as he walks over to the television, standing just behind the chairs where my children sit. I call to them to come help me, but they ignore me. I move from washer to washer, inserting the clothes, the soap, the quarters, pushing buttons.

A dryer buzzes. He turns to check if it belongs to him, and it does. He walks toward it and I realize I am in the middle of the space between him and the dryer. I hold my breath, bracing for the static of air, the pulse of energy that will bounce off my senses. I try not to look up, but I feel safer if I do, knowing that my gaze will hold in place the human mask that covers the fur and fangs.

The flesh around his eyes crinkles as he smiles at me. When he is past, I breathe. I grab a magazine from a stack and sit next to the children, not looking up. I listen to the sounds of his folding, the rustle of fabric rubbing on fabric, the soft puffs of warm air escaping their hiding places inside t-shirts and pant legs, the snap of towels as he whips them into straightness.

I hear the scrape and creak of the wicker basket he carries his clothes in as he lifts it from the counter, and then the soft padding of his brown shoes across the floor as he leaves. And if I turn my head just so, and close my eyes...underneath the sound of soft padding, I can hear toenails clicking on linoleum.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow....

Sign me up....

I'm going to be in line to purchase each and every book you write!

--John B

famjaztique said...

John - (laughing) well you may be my biggest fan, and likely my only fan!
So if I go to print, I'll have to keep the numbers low, like in the 10's. But thanks.

Citadin said...

I'll take one too! Good prose, Frou.

famjaztique said...

thanks citadin...nice to see you're still visiting. It's a little weird to put your words up there, for some kind of public, and not to have the slightest idea of who is reading it, what they think of it, etc. etc.

It's a good practice for letting go of ego.

megonaki said...

Oooo...those clicking toenails....

J.

famjaztique said...

I suppose it's better than scraping toenails.

verification word: elunyo

Anonymous said...

Very smithiesque to have a heightened sensivity toward a perhaps simply desperate and harmlessly horny male - to the point of feeling victemized and threatened.
It's frustrating to be attracted to a women, and yet not to be given the opportunity to meet her through the agency of a naturalized social function. What one is reduced to doing is making eyes and smiling in hopes of establishing a rapport.
It's a sign of our times - and the northeast culture - to recieve such an advance with a closed and callouse, fear based attitude.
Perhaps compassion and an open heart could yield a greater depth of insight into a man's character than assuming one's intuition is correct based on the look of the eye and a forward smile. is the mark of a predator.

famjaztique said...

Your comment is interesting. A male friend of mine said much the same thing but I had the opportunity to discuss it with him in person.

Without knowing me well, it would be difficult for you to know I almost never get this feeling about anyone. You also wouldn't know that my instincts are almost always right.

I may never know if they were that day, but the feelings were so raw and palpable...I wasn't taking a chance.

And, of course, the "event" has been highly dramatized here.

As much as he could have been an innocent guy just trying to be friendly, he could also have been the predator I felt him to be.

I approach most things with open heart and compassion. However, I try not to engage in too much "idiot compassion".

Franztoten said...

Fair enough.