“Is this blue towel clean?” She called to her husband who had just entered the bedroom. She pulled the towel from the clothes horse and shook it over the small balcony, half expecting to see some dust motes break free into the air.
“What?” He snapped without even looking.
“This blue towel, it was outside. Did you use it or is it clean?” The sun was low in the sky, the last of its warmth glanced off her bare arms. When it dipped below the urban horizon she would close the balcony door. Despite the heat of the day the humidity fell quickly in these parts and brought with it a chill that nipped the body and bit the bones.
“THAT isn’t blue. It’s purple.” His voice carried more than a hint of annoyance. “And it is clean, I hung it there this morning.” There was an unnecessary emphasis on the clean. She heard it. He turned and went into the bathroom with an exasperated sigh. She heard that too. She was supposed to hear it.
“OK,” her reply was little more than a whisper. She laid the towel on the bed and smoothed it out. She then folded it in half, bringing it towards her, then again. Next she folded it in three, from the left into the centre then from the right. They fitted best like that in the cramped airing cupboard. Folded into three. She left it there on the foot of the bed, the blue, the purple, a little faded but still stark against the cream bedspread. Clattering came from the bathroom, he would be looking for shaving foam or deodorant probably. She inhaled slowly, deliberately, aware of a slight anxiety creep into her chest. It was a familiar feeling.
“You know, you don’t get any points telling me the colour of the towel like that, with that tone. I’m a bit colour blind. You know that, we’ve been together 23 years. It used to amuse you, you teased me about it. Tomorrow I’ll see the same towel and not be able to say which colour it is. Purple, blue, mauve or bloody magenta. A simple ‘it’s clean’ would have been enough.” She paused. “Do I speak to you like that when I re-wash the pots because there’s still food stuck on them?” The clattering from the bathroom was replaced by running water. “Do I take that tone when I wipe up your spilled toothpaste?” The clinking of the razor against the sink, tap, tap, tap, sounded like a conductor calling an orchestra to order, and confirmed that he was shaving. “DO I GET ANGRY WITH YOU WHEN YOU MISS THE BOWL AND PISS ON THE SEAT OR SPALSH URINE ONTO THE FUCKING WALL?”
That’s what she would have liked to have said. Instead she lifted the well folded purple towel and carried it to the airing cupboard, where she placed it neatly on its pile and quietly closed the door.