When the piles begin to tilt and flirt with toppling, when every sock is missing from its wooden bed and I go pantyless for days, its time for a good soak. Bubbles and soap and lint, they come with the task. And I arrive home, to the small home I have carved in this city, and I take the piles of still-warm clothes to the small closet and the five drawer dresser that I’ve had since childhood and the steel file cabinet I have begun to use for storage. But there is no room in the closet for all the clean clothes. There is no room in the drawers or space on the small shelf above the hangers or in the filing cabinet stuffed with dress-up clothes. I stack the jackets without homes on the floor, I leave the piles of sweaters in trash bags next to the closet, there just isn’t any space to hang them. My closet spews freshly washed pants, it vomits the scent of sunshine and the memory of a day beside the whirl of spinning machines. The hamper is empty, but I am left with another sort of mess. Overpopulated by jeans and T-shirts, I have broken a cycle. There is nothing dirty, nothing soiled that waits for later, nothing that hopes for a rendezvous with water and detergent and piles of quarters that I exchange for energy. At this moment, I am caught up, and because of this, there is no cycle, no in and out. Right now, there is only in and there is not enough space in the room to contain it all.
And the people we crumple like stained socks and throw in the corner? People with brown faces that never turn white, not after a thousand scrubbings, people with black faces, one of every three of those faces sits in a cage, rejected machines that eat Doritos and drink soda and live in the cracks of this paved city and eventually find themselves lifting weights behind barbed wire. These are the people of my hamper, the ones going out, the humans that stay out of circulation, making room for the "fresh breeze" of folded skirts. In the ecosystem of this small room, the accumulated matter of my life, the dirty laundry gives me psychic room, space to feel clean even while the white shirts and delicate sweaters lay at the bottom of the plastic hamper. Those forgotten faces make room for the rest of us. They sew lingerie and assemble cars on barely more than a slave’s salary and they keep the parking spaces of this community free and housing available and health services a little less crowded. Hidden from the world in a cement hamper with bars and electrical wire and watchmen that delight in their extensions of power with guns and a ring of keys, they are there, off the streets, the eternal output. We need them there, this particular ecosystem needs almost two million exiles packed in dim warehouses. Out of cars, out of jobs, out of schools. Their bodies are property of the state, their tattooed bodies are used in the name of legislation and morals and their bodies are used by politicians and their bodies are used by corporations to feed the hungry closets of consumers like me. They are the skins that no one wants, but also, they are what some recognize as a necessity. In the ecosystem of America, in this land founded on ideals of freedom and dead Indians and stolen land, they are the cargo, the dirty laundry, out of circulation. Their void is quickly filled and only a number remains. And while their girlfriends cry and their mothers pray and their children turn hard and angry, they roll in the waves of necessity. They perform the duties of those without tongues and those without hope. And as they roll, tattooed tears form at their ears and spider webs grow across their arms and men in business suits champion safe neighborhoods and stock markets continue to rise and men continue to sit in cages, their shirts a little more dirty each day.