-By Divya Mangwani
They were in the laundry room, struggling with the exact measurement of fabric softener. A few wisps of bubbles floated around them.
“One or two?”
“One and a half. We don’t want to bathe in baby’s breath.”
Gautam carefully poured the liquid into the open slot. Dana selected ’60 degrees’, ‘cotton’ and gave the machine a good kick. It started whirring and shaking from side to side.
There was an empty crisp packet caught underneath the tremors. Dana watched it struggling to get free, a blur of yellow and fading silver.
“The sound always makes me so drowsy,” she said.
Gautam pulled her down to the metal bench. She snuggled against his warmth and closed her eyes, trying to imagine what kind of monster would make such a sound.
“I read somewhere that mothers use washing machines as baby prisons,” Gautam told her.
“Where did you read that?”
He stroked her hair gently. “You’d be a great mother. You would never do that to our baby.”
“Our baby?” she asked. His arm seemed stiffer, the nerves protruding like creeping branches. She stared at them, green and alien-like.
“Don’t you want to have a baby? We would make a wonderful one.”
“We would make a wonderfully multi-coloured one. Brown, white, black, yellow and a bit of grey. I blame my mother’s side for the premature ageing.”
They both looked down at the grey hair reaching her waist.
The machine pinged. One by one, the shudders and tremors ceased. They waited, slowly watching as it came to a standstill.
Water dripped from the clothes, the sound loud and insisting. They shoved their wet, angry things into the laundry bag.
Dana held up a red sock. It had a toe cut off.
“Another one lost. Where do lost socks go?”
“Sock heaven maybe? The eternal cycle of hell on earth?”
Gautam heaved the bag on his shoulder. It was heavier than before.
Dana followed, holding the sock forlornly.
“Maybe it’s not the best time for a baby. I keep losing socks.”
“Have you seen baby socks? They are tinier than you could imagine!” Gautam walked out, head full of miniature dreams.
“Are you pregnant?” she asked the sock.
Dana decided to pin it on the notice board. Maybe it would find its mate someday. Then Gautam would get his baby socks. And maybe she could lose those too.