The dryers were humming busily when John walked into the laundromat. It was easy to see that he wasn’t accustomed to using a laundromat. He would come in, load the clothes, then look around as if in doing so something would be made clear to him. Most of the people there could care less whether he knew how to operate the machines, but after a few trips he became proficient in the operation and considered himself a regular.
It was on one of these trips, as he was gaining confidence in himself, that John had a strange thing happen. He always liked children and there were certainly enough of them running around. A little blond girl about three years old came up to him and smiled and started a conversation.
“Hi, I’m Sandy.” she said.
“Hello Sandy, my name is John. What do you do for a living?”
Sandy just giggled and proceeded to tell him her age, her mother’s name and anything else he wanted to know.
John was beginning to enjoy himself when a blond woman rushed up and grabbed Sandy, gave him a dirty look and wisked the child away. Her admonishment to the child could be heard throughout the laundromat: “I told you not to talk to strangers, especially old men.”
John was startled and a little sad. After that he wasn’t as friendly to children, unless of course he knew their parents.
John was a tall man in his early sixties. His hair was mostly gray, but he had a thick and lustrous head of it. He had green eyes that sparkled when he was happy which wasn’t very often now that Janet was gone. He had a slim build, belying his hearty appetite. But that had diminished lately. Since Janet died several months ago he was in a transition period and he never was a very good cook. So mostly he ate TV dinners or an occasional dinner out by himself. But that was no fun.
He and Janet planned to vacation in the mountains this year. Renting a cabin and fishing was his idea of heaven. But Janet’s illness had come on suddenly and her death six months ago was a blow from which he was still trying to recover. Now his life was drastically different.
He sold the house and moved into a small one bedroom apartment with a lot of other old people. Most of them were very nosy and the old ladies were constantly bringing him hot dishes they had prepared. But he was not in a mood to be social so he usually cut short the visits and the women got insulted and now they didn’t bother him.
He thought of himself as a strong man but lately he began to doubt that strength. He had not planned to be alone and it was strange to him. The apartment though small, loomed before him like some unknown expanse. The days seemed endless. And cleaning was a chore.
One day at the laundromat, as he was loading his clothes, a young woman was struggling with a large basket of clothes and as she tried to put it on one of the washers, it fell. The girl looked rather embarrassed as she bent to retrieve the clothes.
John went to her aid and after they were all picked up and deposited in the washer, she sat down with him. He offered her a cigarette and after accepting she thanked him profusely for his help.
“I’m new in the area,” she said.
“Is that so?” John was never much of a conversationalist and couldn’t think of what to say next. She was so young and pretty, he was wondering why she even bothered talking to him.
“Can you tell me which market has the lowest prices? I am new in town and kind of down on my luck right now.”
“Joes Market on Main Street had the best buys in town and good quality. I can show you where it is,” he said.
“Oh thanks, that’s very kind of you, but I wouldn’t want to put you out,” she replied.
“No problem,” he said.
“By the way what is your name? Mine is John.”
“Hi John, I am Gloria, pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise, Gloria is a pretty name. It suits you.”
“Why thanks,” she blushed.
After they finished their laundry and since Gloria had no car, John drove her to Joe’s market. He helped her to her apartment with the groceries.
“Come in and have a drink or a cup of coffee, it is the least I can do to thank you. Unless of course you wife is waiting for you.”
“No, I am a widower and I’d love a drink.”
Putting her groceries away, Gloria opened a bottle of wine and settled down on the couch next to John. By the time they had finished two glasses each, dusk had descended. Gloria didn’t make a move to put any of the lamps on. John was feeling warm and mellow. He hadn’t felt this good in a long time.