Our Afternoon

The hanger rotates, its steel hook glistening in the sweat of the afternoon. The sunshine makes a sound on the plastic, a sound we cannot hear.

The hanger rotates, its steel hook glistening in the sweat of the afternoon. The sunshine makes a sound on the plastic, a sound we cannot hear. Mom is arguing with C about his gear; about his girlfriend — both of them are fencers — forgetting to bring his wire to their morning bouts. She’s crying now, asking after C and his equipment, chiding him because ‘no-one in their right mind would return something as expensive back to him’; he screams that their love is more expensive and ducks into the shower.

I hang up the white clothes. They’re thick and padded around areas that touch delicate parts of the body; collapsible parts that can be teased to destruction by the tip of a blade. The plastic edge of his breastplate digs into the flesh on my arm. C yells at me to be careful, two minutes after a red mark appears on my body. I turn to leave the laundry room, and his fencing jacket slides off the largest hanger. I roll my eyes to no-one but the stagnant air, padding me into the world, keeping me snug in the crook of a Saturday afternoon.

Mom hustles C out of the shower and shrieks at him again. The two of them go at it, shouting louder than the bright red of his fencing bag, the neon yellow of my highlighter. She says that he doesn’t understand anything, he says that he’s aced comprehension — he can clearly, evidently, ‘comprehend’ things. Mom claims back ground by saying that he lied about his English grade last year; he says people can improve. People can change within two months. Yeah, mom agrees, scream slicing through the thick three-pm. They can change for the worse. Why don’t you allow us to go to your competitions?

It’s my turn to throw my body into the shower. I slide the door shut and turn on the faucet. Water pours down on me and I smile beneath the downpour. Everything becomes filled with the sound of water hitting the walls. And this is when I start to think selfishly, I treasure water. Not because other people in this dusty world don’t get clean water, but because water, water is all the same. It’s a homogeneous liquid, and you can’t tell the difference between water from your shower tap and the tears leaking from your eyes.

I hear mom scream again, through the cascading water. My elbow knocks into the ‘off’ lever; it stops gushing. She’s telling me not to waste so much water. I give myself a final rinse, and step out.

Water washes things off. It washes the stink of an afternoon right off of me, and I start to towel off. I need to hang C’s jacket back up.

The laundry room is alight with evening sun, the golden turning into rust. I tuck the sleeves of his jacket more securely over another hanger. A movement catches my eye, and I trail my gaze over everything in the room before settling on the rack of hangers once again. It’s not the jacket, but a hanger. The air is irksome, thick with a feeling I can’t put my finger on.

One of the hangers rotates in the air, trying to find a way out.

cross-posted on Medium. Fiction.

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