step 1. separate the lights and darks, the things that clash, your mess from his mess. you cannot clean his mess. his stains have set deep into the cloth. you can tell he does not do his own laundry.
step 2. carry the laundry basket on your hip. feel it, push it into your side and hold it with one hand. you are strong. you could carry a baby like that if you wanted to.
step 3. insert laundry into the machine and add detergent. no matter how carefully you remove the cap, you will get that lotion-stick of it on your hands. embrace it. pour it over the rim of the cup, watch it ooze deep blue over your fingers and fingernails and onto the floor. it is the color of monster blood, but you control the monster. it obeys, slurps its blood from your hand, salivating and spinning. it cannot harm you. but it cannot protect you either.
step 4. wait.
step 5. remove the delicates and hang them to dry. hang small lace things by the window, lay sweaters flat. do not wonder if you can kill yourself with your damp, limp stockings.
step 6. dry your clothes. sit on the drying machine and let it shake and shake you. feel the vibrations in your dangling feet, your nervous calves, your nose. feel the vibrations inside of you. recall other things that vibrate: motorcycles, electric razors, the bus seat above the wheel. recall things that don’t vibrate. smirk.
step 7. remove clothes and carry the basket back. it will feel heavier this time, but that is an illusion. you are simply tired. it has been a long day. the basket is, in fact, lighter. it is empty of his smell and his hair. it no longer is weighed down by the smells of salt and sea and pine and pheromones. they smell clean. clean is light. clean is pure. clean is God.
step 8. inhale your clothes. this is not a metaphor. do not focus on the scent of them—which should be like clear blue blood and winter and wind—actually, inhale your clothes. sniff a sock so hard that it stuffs itself through your nose, down the back of your throat, and settles like a deflated balloon at the bottom of your lung. snort buttons off sweaters, threads off pants, whole chiffon tops. do not inhale all of your clothes, however, only enough to fill the cold spot inside of your chest. some people think that it is your heart that grows cold. it is not. it is your lungs, empty. the fibers and fabrics of your clean laundry will soften the edges of this hole. then your breath will be warm and turn to smoke as if there was a fire within you. as if your shoelaces were a wick and your body a candle. as if you were made of wax.