Don’t go down there……the dream came again on the night before laundry day. Over and over and over again….Don’t go down there.
Phillip quietly got out of bed trying not to disturb Solomon, who had worked the closing shift at Perry’s Bar and Grill the night before. He paused to look at the forehead of his partner. How beautiful was Sol’s skin!! And the eyelids fluttering gently in a dream….Dream well, dear one.
It was laundry day. Sol’s chef coats were both dirty, and they needed to be cleaned before the afternoon opening. Sunday was a big day at Perry’s—games, people soothing themselves before entering Monday’s rat race. Phillip crept out of the bedroom and into the hallway. The laundry bin sat in a little alcove just beyond the bathroom. Last evening, Phillip had promised he would do the laundry first thing.
Don’t go down there!
Shut upshutupshutup!!!!!!!!!! Phillip forced down his paranoia. He would not let himself……..let himself be…..
DEFEATED by an irrational fear. If he could not go down into the laundry room in the basement of the apartment house, how could he hope to be a strong partner for Solomon Jenkins, the handsome chef who had wooed him and committed himself to Phillip? Sol had taken care of him and helped him through the first bad time. Phillip needed to be strong. Paranoia was the sign of a weak or diseased psyche, right? The voices were just inside his head. There was nothing to be afraid of, right? He had watched too many crime shows, according to Sol, during the 18 months of his mother’s fight with brain cancer. He quickly put away memories of the hospice with its grotesque retinue of nurses and death doctors.
Phillip went to the kitchen and switched on the coffee maker. One quick cup, and then he would head down to the laundry room.
Quietly, ever so quietly, Phillip gathered up the laundry basket. A wave of love swept over him as he saw Sol’s uniforms on top. For a moment, fear was drowned out by affection that almost took his breath away. He remembered the first time he had met Solomon Jenkins. My compliments to the chef, Phillip had told the waitress. Moments later, Solomon had appeared by the table with his crisp white chef coat and white hat. Phillip had melted, and by 3 a.m. that very morning, Solomon and Phillip knew they were meant to be together…..
DON’T GO DOWN THERE.
The voice inside Phillip’s head would not stop, but Phillip, inspired by the love filling his heart, determined that today, Solomon Jenkins would go to his job with a crisp white uniform. He pushed himself out the door and quietly latched it behind him.
Down the gloomy staircase that lead to the courtyard he went. It was still dark in the pre-dawn. The security light shone over the pathway at the bottom of the stairs that lead down to the room. To the left was the bank of waste bins. Almost there. Phillip held tight to the laundry and he turned right to head down the stairs leading to the laundry room.
Don’t go down there!
Fear stopped him at the top of the stairs. For a moment, he felt like running—just dropping the laundry and running into the darkness of the morning, running all the way to the desert or to the sea…..leaving Sol and his life here in the city….leaving behind the memory of his parents disowning him when he revealed to them that he was homosexual.
Upon thinking that word, he physically cringed. He saw a brief image of his father’s beet red face as he shouted into Phillip’s face…..You are going to hell. I don’t ever want to see you again, you fucking freak….spittle flying and his mother a quivering mass on the floor fiddling with an old broken rosary as if that would help….Get out of my house, buttfucker! You are no son of mine.
Phillip stood frozen at the top of the final stairs leading to the communal laundry room.
He lost track of how long he was standing there, but a shifting, rummaging sound brought him out of his grim reverie. He looked to the right.
There next to the recycling bin was a man. His visage was horrible—filthy beard and knotted hair, dirty clothes and fingerless gloves. He had beside him an old Ralph’s grocery cart, and he was rummaging for treasures in the fetid bins. As love had filled him before, so did revulsion and disgust fill him now. He stood stock still as if waiting for something…….something……
At once, the rummaging man looked up from the scraps and dirty adult diapers and empty vodka bottles. He looked straight at Phillip.
“Don’t go down there!”
Phillip was shocked out of paralysis. Did the man actually speak? Since they had moved into this apartment, that man had rummaged in the bins every Thursday like clockwork. He had never spoken—until now.
After what seemed like an eternity, the man set to rummaging again. Phillip noticed that the eastern sky was colored with a beautiful pink glow. He breathed deeply. He was so tired of the memories of his father, his impotent mother, his failed attempts at male female relationships, his first awkward and dangerously promiscuous sexual encounters with another man. But all that was behind him now, right? MAN UP! It was his father’s voice, the only voice that would never go away.
Phillip glanced at the stairway and then to the right. He must have been standing there longer than he thought, for the rummaging bum was gone…..or had he ever really been there. Phillip descended the stairs to the laundry room. Solomon Jenkins would wear a crisp white uniform tonight at Perry’s…..
The real estate agent unlocked the door to the apartment.
“By law I am required to tell you that a murder occurred in this property about 6 months ago.”
She gestured for the young couple to go in.
“It was not a break in—this is a super safe neighborhood.
The young newlywed couple glanced at each other and then crossed the threshold. “There are two bedrooms. One can be an office or a nursery.”
The young bride smiled.
“Take a look around. Everything has been upgraded. We stripped it to the studs.” The young couple began to stroll through the place. It was lovely. The bathroom had been tricked out and the kitchen was all new with top end appliances and granite. The light was lovely.
The young bridegroom took his wife’s hand. “Are you sure it won’t bother you, Sarah?” Sarah paused unlocked out of the kitchen window.
“I am not pressuring you,” the real estate agent called out, “but this won’t last until the end of the day at this price.
The young wife took out her phone and pulled up the article she had read. Then she looked at her beloved. “I am sure. This place is just what we need, especially since….” Sarah tapped her belly.
If one had been staring at the phone screen of the young Sarah, one would have read the headlines: Murder Suicide in Burbank: Homosexual Lovers’ Spat Leads to Bloodbath.
“We’ll take it!” The mind said and the jubilant agent suddenly popped to life. “Let’s get to the office—we can have you in here by tomorrow morning.”
The laundry had been piling up. Robert wouldn’t have any shirts if she did not venture into the horrible basement laundry room. She gathered her things and crept silently out. Her husband liked to sleep in one morning of the week. He worked on that one day from home. It was imperative that she get his dress shirts laundered. The basket was unwieldy as she crept down the stairs with one hand on her back to help support her massive fundis. One more month and she would be a mother.
As she turned to hit the final flight of stairs down into the laundry room, she was suddenly filled with a loathsome sense of dread. She heard a rustling and looked towards the waste bins. She saw a figure there, filthy and hairy and rooting in the rotten things looking for something, something. Suddenly she locked eyes with the man. As she stared, unable to pull away from the eyes of this man, she saw a wide and gap-toothed grim spread across his face. The inside of his mouth looked like the inside of a trash bin or the inside of a newly dug grave. She stood paralyzed.
“DON’T GO DOWN THERE!” He croaked. Sarah’s body trembled with fear, and she almost ran.
NO! MY HUSBAND DESERVES FRESH CLOTHES.
Sarah looked down the gloomy stairs and then back to the bins. The man was gone. I am so silly, she thought!
There was no time for this. There was laundry to be done.
Gina Funk April 1, 2020