“You’ve barely touched your plate,” he says, dabbing the corners of his mouth with a napkin. “What’s wrong, it doesn’t taste right?”
“No, it’s nothing.” She prods the steamed salmon with her fork, though doesn’t proceed to actually taking in a mouthful.
“So? What’s the problem, you’re not hungry?”
She lets her fork fall out of her hand onto the plate with a startling clang, then places both her elbows on the table. “Not really, I’m not in the mood to eat right now. That’s all.”
With a slight contortion of the face, he says, “You couldn’t have come to that realisation before we got dressed and came to a restaurant? Or even, say, just before you ordered a 3-course meal?” She averts her gaze and shrugs insouciantly
“Fabulous. Thank you, dear. You take care now, Lucile,” the old lady says as she carefully hoists her sack of clothes onto her bony shoulders.
She gives a dainty smile before saying, “And you, Mrs Burton,” then watches the old lady sluggishly exit the laundrette. To the left of the counter is a small pile of clothes, of which Lucile resumes folding away neatly.
It’s early Spring. The Belle Laverie laundremat has been open for some hours, though is still relatively quiet – even on a peaceful Saturday afternoon such as this. Lucile picks up on this fact as her eyes pan around the interior of the laundromat. 4 customers (3 women and 1 man) sit patiently as their clothes wash or dry. One woman glares meticulously into some gossip magazine while her daughter presses her face gently against the glass door of a washing machine, watching the laundry turn and tumble. Lucile smiles amiably a little then hums some chords from Dorothy Ashby’s Essence of Sapphire.
Lucile’s attention is then stolen by the chiming of the bell on the door. Mr Sitei, another frequent customer she’d built a rapport with, enters in with a smile as he removes his moss-green newsboy cap. With his left hand, he wipes a thin layer of sweat from the small space between his nostrils and top lip, while his other hand removes his thick glasses from his face and places them atop his head.
He offers a greeting in his heavy Kenyan accent. Lucile retorts pleasantly and then reaches to the rack of clothes behind her for Mr Sitei’s now dried and ironed garments. He thanks her and bids her a farewell.
Not 5 minutes later, the bell chimes at the door’s opening again. This time, though, an unfamiliar face makes its way to the counter. With her hands still vigilantly folding the clothes before her, Lucile peers up to the young man who enters empty-handed. Slowly, he approaches the counter without a word. He prods his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, and stares up at the paintings lined up orderly against the wall adjacent to the washing machines and tumble driers.
“Afternoon,” she begins. “Could I help you with anything today, sir?”
The young man looks to her and says, “Hi. Yeah, my name’s Vince, I came here to colle–”
“Oh, right,” she interjects loosely. “You’re here for Lorraine’s batch, right?”
The young man looks at her and his facial expression changes to something between a smile and confusion.
“That’s right,” he responds with a nod. She tells him to give her a second. When she returns with a fairly hefty bag of clothing, he narrows his eyes looking at her. Acutely startled, she gives him a look as if to say, ‘Is something wrong?’
A question brews at the tip of his tongue, though nothing emerges from his mouth. Lucile hands him the bag and he thanks her.
“Send my greetings to Lorraine.” she says to him with her benign signature smile, which he realises tastefully reshapes her face. Will do, he nods.
Before he exits, the young man turns back and gawks at Lucile inquisitively once more. She notices him – feels him, staring, but chooses to train her focus simply on folding. The young man called Vince observes her refined, adept movements. Each article of clothing receiving its own special form of regard and careful handling. She takes her time, purposefully making sure everything is perfect without blemish or crease.
“You’re Lucile Belle, right?” the young man eventually utters. She looks at him wordlessly for some moments with her mouth very subtly agape. Her mien then slyly morphs back to her gentle expression.
“That’s right,” she tells him. “That’s me.”
“I thought so,” he says in a notably elevated tone. “Charlton Park, at WOMAD last summer, right?”
The smile on her face stretches even further across her face. “You were phenomenal, honestly. I’d never seen anything like it.”
She lowers her head sheepishly then raises it back up to him, saying, “Thank you. That’s so kind of you. The fact that you remember, too.”
“How could I forget?” the young man says, switching the bag of laundry from his left hand to his right. “It was such an entrancing set. When I heard a harpist was performing in the Siam tent, I just couldn’t miss it. I had to see.”
“So you’re a fan of the harp?”
“Very much so. I listen to a lot of Dorothy Ashby, Jean-Baptiste, a little Valérie Milot, and [pointing to a painting of Carlos Salzedo on the wall where the other wall paintings rested] that guy.” The young man says this feeling a little proud of himself for noticing the painting, and recognising who its of. She tells him she’s impressed.
“It’s such an elegant instrument,” he continues, and peering to the side very slightly, the young man says thoughtfully, “The skill it must take to wield a 47-string instrument, too.”
“It took me years to learn how to play. And I’m glad I did. I play guitar, I play violin, and also, as you know, I sing. In all these different musical disciplines, you get a different sensation – a different dynamic of feeling from each. It’s beyond just them sounding different, they each take me to a different place, even if I play the same chords.” The young man called Vince nods slowly, gently.
“Each instrument speaks its own language, and you learn to understand and appreciate the complexity, the uniqueness of each voice when you use a variety, you know?”
Lucile pauses and notices her gesturing hands floating in front of her. The young man named Vince doesn’t immediately grasp exactly what she is trying to convey, but finds himself strangely fond of how passionate she is about what she was saying. That alone was enough to keep him engaged.
Lowering her hands, she brushes an idle strand of hair behind her ear. She occupies her hands with a new pile of clothes.
Thanks for reading this. I appreciate criticisms and feedback.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – THIS ENTIRE PIECE IS INSPIRED BY A SONG CALLED ‘WASHED UP ON LOVE’ BY A HARPIST, SINGER AND SONGWRITER NAMED LUCINDA BELLE. SHE IS AMAZING. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE CHECK HER OUT (I’LL LEAVE A LINK AT THE END). THIS’LL MAKE MORE SENSE IF YOU LISTEN TO IT. THANK YOU AGAIN.