no one told me that you can’t just turn your clothes in on laundry day and expect them to get clean. I didn’t find that out until 6 months into my bit.
It was finally warm enough to wear the shorts and white t-shirt provided by the state, instead of the blue prison uniform I favored during the winter.
I’m in the weight pit when, in between sets, my workout partner cuts into me about my white tee.
“Bro, why the fuck is your shirt so dirty?”
I looked down, and smelled it, sure that this was the first time I had worn it since getting back from laundry. I said as much.
“Yeah, you need to pay the laundry guy….no one told you that? it’ll turn all your shit brown. See?”
He stood next to me, and grabbed a bit of my shirt and put it next to his. Sure enough, mine had a brownish tinge. I dunno how I never noticed it before.
“They throw it in there with the mop heads and shit, but it’s really because of the drier. That bakes the dirt in there,” he explained.
So a week later, I paid the laundry guy a soup to wash my clothes by themselves. He even folded them up nearly in a tidy stack. But, to my chagrin, my whites were still stained brown. All of em: tees, thermals, socks, boxer briefs, and sweatshirt. Fuckkkk.
So i paid the laundry guy a bag of coffee to wash my clothes for a month. Hopefully, after repeated wahings, theyd be brought back to life.
Unfortunately, no such thing happened. They were just as dingy as before, technically “clean” but looking dirty. For whatever reason, I forgot about them for awhile. I jus didn’t let it bother me, I guess. Plus, plenty of guys walk around with the same ocher tinge to their shirts and thermals.
But as time passed, with a lengthy bit ahead of me, this indelible dirtiness irked me.
I guess its the nature of the beast. Given enough time locked up, you wanna improve every aspect of yourself, which could use a little fixing, cuz apparently, you were such a jerk in real life that you got adult time out for a few years.
For me, it began with exercising. The thought of wasting away years and returning home in worse shape after prison was unbearable to my ego. But the motivation also arose from asking myself: “if I have the time to get in amazing shape, and look great, why not do it?”
So, I started working to achieve that goal. Why NOT look my best? Then, my precious Reebok’s, after a long winter, resembled three year old work shoes that you’re about to designate for lawn-mowing only. And they smelled terrible.
I’m terribly self-conscious about my foot odor, and there’s no Dr. Scholls foot powder or anything like that, so I had to try a handful of unproven methods: baby powder, a deodorant stick in them overnight, spraying them with bleach.
All failed miserably, and in one case, created a mutant odor that was worst than the original one. Finally, I caved and paid someone $4 to wash em.
Money well spent, too, because they came back looking brand new. Then he revived my sweatshirt for another $2. My t-shirts, he estimated, were beyond saving.
Regardless, it wasn’t long before I was bothered again by my brown “whites”. If I didn’t have to walk around in dirty-looking clothes, why not change it? Again, this idea persisted: why not look my best?
So I set about resurrecting one tee and one thermal at first. I filled a garbage bag with hot water, a little bleach, and shavings of the green state soap, which contains lye. I’d swirl em around sporadically to simulate a washing machine, but for the most part they soaked for three hours. I wrenched them out and hung them up to dry.
The results were disappointing. The thermal showed no sign of whitening, while the white tee was just a lesser shade of brown.
Undeterred, I repeated this once a week for a month. Sometimes, I’d wash them in the sink under running water and scrub them with the state soap.
Fortunately for me, my cubie got strung out and needed some quick cash so he sold his immaculate white thermal to me for $2. (It was so old that it had a prison number printed on the back. Those haven’t been standard-issue for over 5 years, because back before they started recycling dead men’s numbers, you could discern how long a person had been in prison based on their number alone. So newbies were walking around with a literal target on their back.)
But I kept at it, assiduously. Id compare it to my state-laundry-workout tee after each wash. I made slow but steady progress.
But it wasn’t until these last two weeks or so that my T-shirt reached a whiteness comparable to brand new tees. It even feels different, to be walking around and look down to see a startling white T-shirt.
Whatever, I know this sounds really petty and inconsequential, and it probably is. But to me, it’s more than a clean white T-shirt. It’s an improvement, an erasure of filth from my life. I always think of a Jordan Peterson quote that’s something like: “If you try/do just 5% more than you did the week before, and do the same thing the following week, and then the next week and the week after and so, pretty soon you’re trying 90-100% than when you started. That’s significant.”
I’ve applied this lesson for I dunno how many weeks now, but where once I was ambling about in a dirty tee with a protruding beer belly, I’m strutting in a pristine outfit that’s stretched out over rippling muscles.