Aaron likes to gamble, but casinos don’t appeal to me. I’ve spent too much time here, feeding bills into machines with handwritten “costumers only” signs. (My roommate and I used to joke about what b-level performers would trust their fabric to a laundromat like this – web-footed ballerinas, clowns that specialized in conceptual humor, hairless dogs.)
He says he loves the sounds of the casino floor, the coins clacking together, the bells and celebratory jingles. That, Aaron says, is the sound of riches.
At Aaron’s apartment the walls are so thick he doesn’t hear a peep of playoff celebrations. His hallways are carpeted in thick wool loops, and his dryer is as quiet as a lightbulb. The first time he gave me a tour I rolled up in the duvet on his bed and fell asleep. It was the best third date I’ve ever had.
At Suds n’ Duds the machines groan with effort. I dump a garbage bag of clothes directly into “the Titan” and push the button, sparking a round of clanking complaints. From the corner of the room the owner/manager hacks a smoker’s cough in her watchtower office, and turns up the volume on her ancient tv. Above the din the pinball machine repeats its piping tune, luring the children spending another Saturday here with their parents. The kids run laps between the machines, hunting errant coins and playing dress-up with the oversized garments from the lost & found.
I tell Aaron he doesn’t know what money sounds like. I say it sounds like expensive shoes clicking on marble floors. It sounds like phones set to vibrate, not playing Lizzo on the highest volume. Money sounds like the clouds rolling in over the Boston Harbor while we drink San Pellegrino on his balcony. Money is hushed. It whispers. It builds slowly.
But Aaron says that’s not the kind of money he means. He wants the excitement of one big prize. He loves the slot machines. He buys powerball tickets.
I don’t tell him that our relationship is my own form of gambling. The risk I feel padding slowly through his lobby, clutching my purse steady against my heart, trying not to reveal it’s full of change.