Sophia was awakened by the rattling sound of her washing machine. She groaned, rubbed her eyes, and glanced at her watch. It was just 2:20A.M. Barely conscious, she sat on the corner of her bed. It took her a moment to realize that she wasn’t doing her laundry. That’d been something she’d decided to do in the morning. Besides, she would never think of doing it at this time. She started to feel a sudden panic. Maybe someone entered the apartment, she thought. But it was ridiculous; who would enter someone’s apartment in the middle of the night to wash clothes? She stood up from her bed, and walked towards the door. She stared at the knob for a moment, gave it a turn, and exited.
Her heart was pounding at the same speed of the washing machine’s obnoxious sound. She’d always hated it. The Washing Machine from Hell, she called it. Each time Sophia turned the thing on, it made a sound that was so loud that even the neighbors could hear it. But Sophia knew it was her fault; after all, she’d never complained to the landlord when he’d come to collect the rent.
She walked slowly towards the living room and turned the light on. After that, she did the same with the toilet. But there was no one. She seemed to be the only one in the apartment. She turned on the balcony’s light were the washing machine was. She stared at it for a moment. It was spinning violently, like it always did. She then approached the wire door, and went outside.
Sophia was shocked to see the laundry basket empty. It seemed as if someone had grabbed her clothes, and put them in the washing machine. She walked out of the balcony, and headed to her apartment’s door. After checking it carefully, she realized that it was locked; just as she’d left it when she entered. The whole thing was very puzzling to her. Ghosts and the paranormal were immediately discarded from her list of possibilities. She’d stopped believing in those things the same way she had stopped believing in God, Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy.
She left out a sigh, took a beer from her refrigerator, and sat on the living room. I guess I have no choice but to wait, she told herself in resignation.
It took half an hour for the washing machine to stop. After that, Sophia took out her clothes, and hung them in the balcony as she always did. By the time she was done, she was utterly exhausted. She went to the bathroom, washed her teeth again, and went back to bed. The beer had helped her to relax a bit, so it didn’t take her long to fall in a deep, deep sleep.
“Maybe you fell asleep while doing the laundry,” Julie said, holding her vodka lime. “And forgot about it when you woke up.”
Sophia shook her head. “I never do it after twelve. Not to mention two in the morning.”
“Well,” Julie said, “at least your clothes are clean now.”
“It’s not funny.” Sophia took a sip of her martini.
“Okay, okay. Don’t get overexcited,” Julie said, her palms facing Sophia.
They fell silent for a moment. Sophia stared vacantly at the Corona neon sign next to her, lost in thoughts. A group of white foreigners entered and sat at the bar. They spoke in a rough language that sounded like swearing to Sophia.
“Oh, yeah,” Julie suddenly said, excited, “a little bird told me you got engaged with James. Is that truth?”
“Who told you?” Sophia said in a quiet voice, almost whispering.
“Soorry. I promised the person that…”
“Never mind. I don’t care,” Sophia said with a sigh.
“But what an exciting new! You must be happy.”
“I am,” Sophia said. “I’ve been looking forward for it. I think I’m getting old. Or at least, I feel like I’m getting old.”
“Come on, you’re just twenty six. You’re in your best years!”
“You said the same thing when we were teenagers.”
“Did I?” Julie sipped her drink. “So it means that you’re tired of our late night hangouts?”
“To be honest…yeah,” Sophia said. “Aren’t you? Drinking until morning, and meeting a different guy every week?”
Julie gazed up at the ceiling, thoughtfully. “Not really.”
Sophia sighed again. “You’re helpless.”
“Well, I don’t want to marry. What else can I do? Also, as Sartre said, ‘a writer should never allow himself to be turned into an institution.’ And that’s what marriage is after all: an institution.”
Sophia laughed. “He wrote fiction and philosophy essays. You write for the astrology column of a newspaper. But anyway, when did you start getting interested in philosophy?”
“Actually, I heard it from a guy a met last week.”
“I knew it,” Sophia said with a grin.
They remained silent again. After a moment, a young man approached their table. He was dressed in a suit, and had an expensive haircut. He looked like a typical rich family boy.
“Excuse me,” he said with a formal tone, “my friend and I had been watching you for a while,” he pointed to a table with a boy sitting in it, “and we were wondering if we could join you.”
“Sorry,” Sophia said, apologetically. “But…”
“Okay. No problem,” Julie interrupted, smiling to the guy.
“Great,” the guy said, smiling back. “I’ll call my partner.”
Sophia and Julie watched the young man as he walked back to his table.
“Hey!” Sophia said to Julie with a frown. “Did you forget I’m engaged?”
“Calm doown, Sophia,” Julie said, sipping her drink again. “You should relax and enjoy your last days of freedom. After you get married, you won’t have times like this again.”
Sophia let out a sigh and took a sip of her glass. “Okay. Whatever.”
The young man came back with his friend after a few minutes, holding a bottle of Johnny Walker. The boy was wearing a t-shirt, and looked like a shy, college student. He glanced down as he sat beside Sophia. The one who had previously come sat next to Julie.
“I’m Tyson,” the guy in the suit said, and then glanced at his friend, “and this is Mark.”
“Julie,” Julie said, and then extended her palm towards Sophia. “Sophia. Nice to meet you.”
This is a mistake, Sophia said to herself, shaking her head. This is a mistake.
They chatted for a bit while sipping their drinks. Tyson asked for an ice bucket, and two new glasses for Sophia and Julie. After the waitress came, he filled them with the whiskey. Julie and Tyson did most of the talking. Sophia and Mark were silent, specially the boy. The four of them were starting to get drunk.
“Riight, Sophia?” Julie said with a drunk tone. “We both hate being tied down.”
Sophia looked up, barely catching up. “Oh, yeah. I mean no. You’re the one who does. Not me.”
“Sometimes I wonder,” Tyson started, with a sober voice, “if relationships and marriage are just political agreements that were made up by society so it can perpetuate itself. You know, the mantra they preach: family is the base of society. But what if it’s something unnatural?”
“But humans are a monogamous specie,” Sophia protested. “That’s why we have this thing called love. It was made to bound two people together.”
“There are many cultures that are polygamous,” Tyson said. “But that’s beside the point. The thing is that there are many facts that support my claim; like the fact that romantic love dies down after two years, the restless fights in marriage, divorce, and the fact that humans are not made to sleep with one another. And I’m not making this shit up. You can search it on the Internet. Many people have made researches on it.”
Sophia stayed quiet. She was impressed by the guy’s knowledge in the matter. Mark was sipping his drink in silence.
“Enough of science!” Julie said, “the point is to enjoy life to the fullest. Regrets are more painful than apologies.”
If something happens tonight, Sophia thought. I’ll really have to apologize to James.
They continued drinking until they emptied the Johnny Walker. After that, Tyson bought a round of tequila shots for everyone.
Sophia started to grow unaware of her surrounding. All she could see around her were lights and voices. She felt good. It’d been a long since she’d done something like this with Julie. It was in moments like this when she could truly relax; just give herself up to the music, the flickering lights, and the comfortable darkness. It was in moments like this when she could stop thinking about world outside, and all the problems she had in it.
Sophia woke up from her numbness and opened her eyes. A tongue was playing with hers, while a hand searched under her dress. She immediately pushed the person away.
“I’m sorry,” Mark said. “I thought you were OK with it.”
Sophia glanced around, still dizzy. She was shocked to realize that she was against the wall of a toilet. She rewinded her memory. She remembered that the four of them had finished the tequilas, and had gone to the dance floor to dance. Julie had pick up Tyson, and Sophia had started dancing with Mark. But that was the last thing she could remember.
“This is no good,” Sophia said to herself, covering her face. “This is not good.”
“It’s OK,” Mark said, moving slightly away. “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.”
“I’m sorry,” Sophia said, lowering her hands from her face and looking at Mark. “The thing is that…I have a boyfriend. We are even getting engaged.”
“Oh,” said Mark. “I understand. No need to say sorry. And congratulations.”
Sophia was a bit surprised. Mark had been very quiet at the table, but now he was talking smoothly, as if he did things like this all the time.
“He should never know about this,” Sophia said to herself, covering her face again.
“You don’t have to tell him if you don’t want to.”
“But that’s not right,” Sophia said.
“People are those who decide what’s right or wrong. The concept of goodness and evil only exists in our minds. The same way the concept of cheating will only exist in your boyfriend’s mind if you tell him.”
Cheating. The word made Erin feel as if she were being stabbed in the head with a handful of knives.
Sophia let out a sigh. “What’s the time?” she asked Mark.
He glanced at his watch. “Twelve thirty.”
“Sorry,” Sophia said again, “I think I want to go back home.” She glanced around. “By the way, where’s Julie and Tyson?”
“They went to his apartment.”
“Oh, I see,” Sophia said with another sigh, “That’s very like her.”
“Do you want me to call a taxi for you?”
They walked out of the bar. Once they were outside, Mark called a taxi with his phone. He talked to the operator for a moment, and then hung up.
“It’ll be here in a few minutes,” Mark said.
They waited in silence for five minutes until the cab arrived. Sophia said goodbye to Mark and apologized to him again, without being quite sure what for.
“Hey, Sophia,” Mark suddenly called out.
“Yes?” Sophia said with half of her body inside the cab.
“You’re afraid of it because you’re afraid of being another dull, rotating gear in society,” Mark said with a smile.
Sophia stared at Mark with her lips slightly parted. What is he talking about?
“Hey, this thing is burning fuel, you know,” the taxi driver said.
“Oh, sorry,” Sophia said to the driver, entered the cab, and closed the door.
Sophia waved goodbye to Mark as the taxi drove towards the main street.
Once again, Sophia’s sleep was interrupted by her noisy washing machine. This time, she just opened her eyes, and sat slowly on the corner of her bed. She was sober by now. She checked the time. 2:21A.M. The same time again? She stood up from her bed, opened the door, and exited her room.
She did the same as last night; she turned on the light, checked the toilet, and walked towards the balcony. She stared at the empty laundry basket, and realized that the dress she’d worn at the bar was now in the washing machine. What the hell is going on? she asked herself. She stared at the machine hypnotically as it continued spinning and spinning. After a moment she gave up. Oh, whatever, she thought. My clothes are just being washed. What’s so bad about that? Sophia entered her apartment, and took a beer from her refrigerator. She sat on the living room, and sipped her can. She decided again to wait until the laundry was done. Her memory took her back to the events at the bar. She wondered if Julie was having sex with Tyson now. It occurred to her to check her phone. There was a message from Julie.
im sooo sorry for leaving you but i couldnt resist myself again. and i figured out that you would go to a motel with mark. i saw you guys having a romantic time in the toilet. you naughty little bitch hehe. don’t worry about me im having a great time at tysons apartment. the thing is huuge. but its not the only big thing he has hehe. take care julie call me tomorrow!
Sophia let out a sigh and took another sip of her beer. I wish I hadn’t gone out tonight, she thought. After a moment, Julie realized that there was another message. This one was from James. Sophia hesitated for a moment, and then read it.
How’re you doing baby hope you’re having fun with Julie (don’t drink too much!) for some reason I can’t sleep and I started to think about you I really can’t wait to see us married I just wanted to say that you really make me happy every time I wake up and see you lying beside me I feel like I’m in the only place I want to be in the world well that’s all good night babe.
Sophia found herself smiling after reading the message. She really felt that marrying James was the right choice. She knew if she lost the chance with him, she would regret it for the rest of her life. It was truth that she’d met many guys in the past (thanks to Julie), but none of them had made her feel the love and security that James made her feel. He was the first man she’d really trusted. Sophia looked up at the ceiling. I’ll never do stuff like tonight again.
The Washing Machine Enigma (as Sophia had started to calling it) continued the following nights without fail. Right at 2:00A.M. the washing machine would turn on by itself, and start spinning. Some nights, Sophia would wait in the balcony, but nothing would happen. It was only after she left that the washing machine started to do it’s job.
But Sophia started to gradually accept it as a natural phenomenon. Each time she heard the sound of the machine, she would just get up, take a beer from her refrigerator, sit in the living room, and wait for the thing to stop.
It didn’t bother her anymore. In fact, she was happy of not having to wash her clothes again.