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Of Love and Laundry

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“Issy,” whispered Even into the ear of his sleeping boyfriend and gently kissed the earlobe afterwards. “Baby, it’s half past seven. You wanted me to wake you up.”

Isak lazily turned around in the bed towards Even who was leaning over him, fully clothed and prepared to leave for his morning shift at Kaffebrenneriet. 

Isak yawned and asked sleepily, “Mhmm. Are you leaving already?” while circling his arms around the back of Even’s neck in an attempt to make him stay for a little while longer.

Even gave Isak one of his fond, tender smiles and covered his forehead, temple and cheek with dozens of featherlight kisses. “Hmm. I must or I’ll be late again,” he confirmed and tried to escape Isak’s tight hold. However, seeing that it wasn’t easy at all, he yielded very soon, cuddled as close to Isak as he could and hugged him for one last, sweet moment.

Isak revelled in the gentle pressure of Even’s body against his. There was so much comfort in Even’s loving arms. Isak always felt completely safe in them. Safe and loved. So incredibly loved.

One last, lingering kiss, this time on the lips, before Even started extracting himself from the elaborate tangle of their limbs. “I really have to go, love. I’ll call you during the lunch break, okay?” he replied to Isak’s discontented whines.

Isak frowned at him grumpily but eventually smoothed his forehead and agreed, resignedly “Okay. Love you.”  Then, he tipped his head back and stuck out his chin, which was his unique (and tremendously effective) way of asking for more kisses.

Even chuckled at the sweet and familiar gesture and gladly gave Isak what he wanted. “Love you, too. Bye,” he added afterwards and left, at last.

“Bye,” Isak called after him.

He waited until he heard Even lock the front door of the flat. Then, he checked the time on his phone and seeing that it was only 7:34, he nestled back under the duvet. He could afford to sleep for a few more minutes these days. It was summer and holidays after all.

When the warm sun rays started to shine brightly through the large and only window of the room, Isak woke up, filled with a peculiar sense of apprehension. He located his phone on the bedside table and looked at the time. He had overslept by three hours. It was 10:46.

“Fuck,” he remarked fittingly and started to climb out of the bed.

He was lucky because he didn’t need to be at the Science section of Akademika Blindern where he worked during the summer holidays until 13:00 – the start of his afternoon shift. Still though, he had hoped to get up earlier than usual for once, clean the windows, mop the floor, change the bed covers, iron and fold the clothes that Even should have brought from the laundry room the previous evening etc. In brief, he wanted to try and act like a responsible adult that he strived so much to be.

But now, it seemed as though he would have to change his plans considerably.

Reconciled with the unexpected and frankly annoying turn of events, Isak began the day with a quick cold shower that helped him thoroughly wake up both physically and mentally. Afterwards, he made a very late breakfast in their tiny kitchen and took it to the small dining table in the main room. Sipping his coffee and munching slowly on a piece of buttered toast, he skimmed through the online news and looked at the weather forecast, gave a few likes on Instagram, checked his emails and answered into the groupchat he shared with Jonas, Magnus and Mahdi.

Later, when he had taken the empty plate and mug back to the kitchen and washed up, he contemplated his next move. He didn’t have much time left, only about an hour before he would need to catch the tram to work, so he knew he had to choose something from the long list of chores he had written down for himself the previous evening. Eventually, he decided to change the bed covers and iron at least some of the newly-washed clothes as these were the tasks that didn’t require much time and also, Isak genuinely enjoyed them.

With great care, he stripped the mattress of the dirty bedsheet and changed it for a clean and crisp one, then did the same thing with the striped blue duvet and two pillows. A contented smile spread on his face when he gently took the blue pillow, their favourite, into his hands and inhaled its soft, sweet aroma of lavender and camomile.

He had never imagined how wonderfully grounding and comforting taking care of a household could be. Back in April, when he and Even had decided to move together, he had been so nervous and full of self-doubt. But now? Even the simplest and most mundane things like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or washing was making his heart flutter with joy and pride. They were building a home. Slowly and sometimes a little chaotically, but together. Their everyday life seemed so imperfectly perfect to him.

Coming back from his little rêverie, Isak gently arranged the blue pillow back on the bed, next to the grey one, then sighed dreamily and went to the bathroom for the laundry basket.

A minute later, he returned with empty hands and deep in thought. In the bathroom, he had found the basket but not the clothes.

It was strange. And confusing. Isak could clearly remember he had asked Even the day before to move the laundry from the washing machine to the tumble dryer and to bring it upstairs after the drying cycle, so that he could iron and fold everything today. They always did it this way. Or… almost always, since Even had a tendency to forget about unloading the washing machine sometimes.

Or more like… fairly often. Okay, almost every time Isak had asked him, which was dead annoying, especially for such an organised person as Isak was gradually becoming in recent months.

Then, of course, it all dawned on him. He rolled his eyes dramatically and growled in absolute irritation. The great mystery was solved. The laundry hadn’t mysteriously disappeared, Even had just completely forgotten about it yet again. Which was…

“Bloody brilliant.”

Objectively, Isak knew that he shouldn’t take the matter so seriously but at that moment, he simply couldn’t help himself. It was incredibly irritating and time-consuming to re-wash or re-dry the clothes, not to mention that it kept increasing their water and electricity bills and the laundry detergent wasn’t for free either. It just sucked so much on so many levels.

In a frantic attempt to fix the situation as quickly as possible, Isak took out the mobile phone and checked the time. Another, deeply felt curse escaped his lips. It was already far too late to start a new washing cycle. Even if he had done it in the very next minute, his effort would have been completely futile because he needed to set off to work at 12:30 at the latest and the washing cycle wouldn’t have finished before 12:50. Which meant that there would have been no one to take the laundry out and nothing would have changed on their situation.

Still quite mad, Isak closed his eyes and took two or three deep, calming breaths (yoga was truly doing wonders to his temper) before marching decisively to the kitchen.

Having concluded that the most effective way to sort out the problem at hand would be to inform Even about the current situation and ask him to turn on the washing machine upon his arrival from work, Isak took the cube of bright, multicoloured post-it notes which had its permanent place on one of the kitchen shelves and started to write his message on the top sheet of paper.

It should be something short and simple but not too harsh, he thought. He always tried to avoid being harsh with Even. The eternal sunshine of his life. Rightful owner of his heart. Constant presence on his mind. Mannen i hans liv. He didn’t deserve to be treated harshly. He was Isak’s precious darling that had to be protected at all costs.

Pursing his cupid bow lips in concentration, Isak contemplated the use of different greetings for a moment. In the end, he settled on “Dearest heart of mine, sweet Even” because only these six words could hint at the depth and scope of his affection towards Even aptly enough. Satisfied with his choice of words, he wrote his request in three short sentences and nodded in approval.

As he was looking at the final version of his message afterwards, a new problem arose, which he couldn’t ignore easily. As a zealous scientist and perfectionist that he was at heart, Isak felt a strong, inner urge to make the note exceedingly informative as well as nice and short. He just couldn’t let the main point get lost somewhere between the lines. No, no. Everything had to be expressed clearly and with intent, maybe together with a few facts and arguments that would highlight the importance of the main point of the message.

There was a plethora of such supportive arguments, facts and points of view. After a due consideration, Isak carefully selected and integrated three of them into the original text, thus completely rewriting it using some more post-it notes. The arguments were as follows:

1. The economic aspect – The extra money they had to pay for their energy bills and laundry detergents could be used on buying things that were truly necessary (e.g. Isak could buy Even those beautiful and awfully expensive coloured pencils that he longed so much for or they could go out for a nice dinner date together to that new fancy restaurant near Nissen). It was crucial for a new household like theirs to have a balanced budget.

2. The ecological aspect – Considering that they both felt committed to the preservation of nature, sustainability and saving Earth’s resources (by engaging in the leatherback sea turtles protection scheme for example), it was pretty shameful that they were using so much water, electricity and chemicals to wash or dry their clothes repeatedly. Especially, when the solution was so simple – just to remember to empty the blasted washing machine when the cycle was done. It could be one small step for Even but a giant leap for the sea turtles. Poor little things.

3. The time aspect – Essentially, any amount of extra time which had to be spent on chores of whichever kind was wasted time. There were so many things of ineffable importance to which said “lost” time should be devoted every day instead – notably cuddling, kissing and other things which they loved doing together lying down (yes, reading books to each other before bed for instance). The situation was getting exceptionally serious in this particular regard – in recent days, they had barely filled the daily cuddle quota. Them of all people!

What started as a short and simple note, very soon turned into a full essay about the importance of being earnest in doing laundry and more. But, truth to be told, Isak was pretty content with the final outcome of his efforts. When he stepped away from the kitchen counter to overlook his message (or rather his letter of reproach combined with some playful, “scientific” remarks and implicit, free verse love poetry), written by hand on nineteen colourful post-it notes, a proud smile bloomed on his face. Then, he took the twentieth, sky blue note, signed it with a “Love you eternally, Isak” and drew a big heart (which turned out to be asymmetric as hell) right under it.

Perfect, he grinned and carefully moved all the notes from the counter to the fridge, one by one, creating a colourful mosaic of sticky squares on the flat white surface. He would have taken a photo of his creation, too, but as soon as he unlocked the screen of his phone, he realised in horror how late it was. So, he grabbed his backpack and hoodie in a hurry, locked the front door of the flat and ran to the tram stop at the speed of light.

When he returned from his afternoon shift at about 18:45, he found the flat all quiet and empty. There was no sign of Even anywhere, even though he should have returned several hours ago.

He must have gone shopping or something, Isak assumed and went to wash his hands in the bathroom. Then, he decided to go to the kitchen to make some tea for Even and coffee for himself.

As soon as he came closer to the door frame, his attention was fully drawn to the fridge. His message from earlier was gone but in its place, there was a giant heart made of pink and red post-it notes.

Isak’s mouth curled up in a large, fond smile which widened even more when he discovered that the notes were numbered and each one contained a sentence or two. It was a giant puzzle that Even had made specially for him! Isak felt his heart melt at the sweet, sweetest of gestures.

Eager to know what the message contained, he came closer to the fridge and started to grab one little square note after another and put them next to each other on the kitchen counter. It only took him a few minutes to make a long, pink and red chain out of them and thus puzzle out the entire text. The moment he did, he started to read:

To my precious and most beloved Isak.

I found your supremely accurate and devastatingly honest analysis stuck to our fridge door today. I won’t deny it. It shocked me to the core!

I’m truly sorry that I keep forgetting about the “blasted washing machine” (as you so gently call it) all the time. Believe me, darling, that I’m not doing it on purpose! If I had known about any of the significant consequences of my actions as you listed them in your letter, I would have tried to change my annoying and unhelpful behaviour ages ago.

Now, to react to each of your (good!) points:

1. It’s such a joy and delight to see how sensible yet caring you are! Indeed, why should we pay more money than it’s strictly necessary? Let’s just stop doing that right now, you’re right. (PS I made a reservation at the new “fancy” restaurant for Saturday evening, thank you for reminding me!)

2. No, not the sea turtles! Now I regret my mistakes even more. :-( I solemnly swear I will try my best and remember to take the laundry out of the washing machine the very second the washing cycle ends. From this day forward, until my dying day. Anything for the turtles (and YOU)!

3. Ow. Did you hear that? That was the sound of my heart breaking. I am aggrieved to learn that I neglect you (and us) so much, my love! Please, excuse and forgive my appalling manners and ignorance. I will make sure that all daily, weekly and monthly cuddle and kiss quotas are not just filled, but exceeded at least tenfold! Your wellbeing and happiness are both very dear to me. I hope you know that. <3 (Also, we have a reputation to maintain. The essence of Evak cannot lose anything of its softness, silliness or sappiness! Certainly not because of laundry of all things. That’s just unacceptable.)

As you can see, I am utterly and completely humbled and remorseful for my actions. But that’s not all! I’ve also made an actual move towards change. I’m very hopeful it could truly make a difference this time.

Just now, I’ve downloaded an original Norwegian phone app called “eKlesvask”. It’s so wonderfully sophisticated! You’re gonna love it, Issy. Just imagine – I can choose the exact model of our washing machine and tumble dryer, insert the time we start the washing or drying cycle and the app will automatically inform me by its obnoxiously loud beeping alarm that it’s done and the laundry needs to be taken out. Oh, the technology of today! I’m absolutely mesmerised!

I can’t wait for you to get home, sweetheart.

Forever yours, Even <3

PS I thought about spaghetti for dinner but couldn’t find any, so I’m currently on my way to KIWI (or back from there, I’m not sure at what time you’re reading this little note of mine).

When Isak finished reading through the entire letter, every little post-it note that Even had written to him, he had to blink out the tears that had magically appeared in his eyes and now threatened to spill from his eyelids and flood his cheeks.

Oh, Even. Darling.

His heart was overflowing with gentle feelings, with joy and love. With peace and gratitude. With genuine and infinite happiness.

In the end, he let the tears fall as they wished and smiled through them, so brightly and so fondly. He was so immersed in the contents of the letter, still, that he nearly missed the distinctive click of the lock and a quiet creak of the front door that closely followed.

Even was home. Back home. With him.

Excited to see his sweet and handsome face after a long day of separation, Isak longingly turned his head towards the hallway. And waited. Then Even entered the kitchen and Isak felt as if he had just witnessed the sun rise on a cloudless summer morning. His heart skipped a beat or a few.

“Halla,” Even greeted him joyfully, placed a bag of groceries on the counter, right next to the chain of notes, then took Isak’s face into his hands and kissed him tenderly. “Oh, you’re crying! What’s the matter, sweetheart?” he widened his eyes in concern and began to wipe Isak’s tears away with his thumbs at once.

“Hei,” answered Isak, a little huskily. “It’s nothing. I just found your letter…” he added and pulled Even into a tight hug.

Even didn’t hesitate at all to comfort Isak, wrap his arms around his waist and bury his face in his hair, inhaling the scent of the lemongrass shampoo that they both liked so much. They stayed glued to each other like that for a few seconds. Or minutes. Or hours. Neither of them cared too much about time at that moment. So focused they were on enjoying each other’s immediate proximity.

Eventually, Even broke the embrace but kept a hand on Isak’s waist. Grinning unashamedly at him he remarked, “I gather that you weren’t entirely upset by it?” and playfully nudged Isak’s nose with his own and then again and again until he saw a small smile appear on Isak’s lips.

Isak chuckled a little and replied, “I wasn’t. At all. I loved it.” He aimed for placid but ended up in awe upon catching the look in Even’s eyes, the two blue stars which he adored and worshiped like a deity. There was a soft glint in them, warm and comforting, gently teasing and mischievous. A glint of pure and profound affection and care.

“Good. I’m glad,” whispered Even and tenderly pressed his lips against Isak’s. A few heartbeats later, when they reluctantly parted again, breathless but utterly blissed out, he asked, “Wanna help me with the dinner?”

It was a simple and innocent question but one that brought a wonderful realisation into Isak’s mind and heart. Not for the first time but just as suddenly and completely. This was it. The thing that was truly and uniquely them. The thing that he loved the most.

However silly or sappy or extra they acted sometimes, no matter how many small or large obstacles they had to and would have to overcome in their new life together, at the end of the day, they could always come back to this – the glorious feeling of mutual love and devotion, their playful domesticity and grounding sense of belonging.

Isak felt how the corners of his mouth rose completely on their own volition and how the smile widened even more when it saw itself mirrored on Even’s face.

At that precise moment, Isak knew. This was the true essence of Evak. Their greatest treasure and fortune. True love.