The man came to install a new washing machine; a washing/dryer combination designed to give the ultimate mixture of washing and drying. It was white and shiny like a freshly laid egg, only it was cuboid-shaped rather than spherical, and contained no delicious yoke.
I opened the door in my dressing gown, a floral print smoking jacket affair, and the man looked disgusted. I think he was some sort of mad working-class nutter, and as such unfamiliar with my gentleman of leisure lifestyle. I could tell that through his thinly veiled disdain he was actually tempted by the soft silken texture of my extravagant robe. I offered him a stroke of my forearm, or maybe a sniff of my lapel, but he declined. I could tell his interest was piqued, but I imagine he didn’t want to be mistaken for some kind of nancy-boy, which is the worst sort of insult among washing machine installers, especially ones from the streets.
I offered him a cup of tea while he hauled the machine through to the kitchen. He accepted and I took a mug out from the cupboard and put it on the kitchen counter, which is where I choose to make my teas. Reaching back into the cupboard however I discovered that we were out of tea bags; this realisation hit me like a realisation. At first I didn’t know what to do to rectify the situation; I had offered the man a cup of tea and I was worried that if I confessed we were out of tea bags it would look like I was playing a cruel joke on this naïve young man.
I had a brilliant idea: I remembered that the phrase “tea-bagging” was also a bawdy double entendre, meaning an erotic sexual performance in which a man lowers his testes on to his lover’s face. I saw an opportunity for a hilarious prank, which if taken in good humour would definitely ensure best friend status between me and this lowly laundry-based serviceman.
I unzipped my trousers, removed my scrotum and testes and placed them inside the mug. I was careful not to allow my penis to follow them inside the mug’s gaping aperture, because that would not have been funny. I turned around to face the man with the mug in my hand, planning to say “here’s your teabag” with a wry smile on my face, but I faltered, nervous about such outrageous joviality, and what I actually said was “I’ve put my balls in this cup.”
I paused for laughter. So did he, which was polite but unnecessary. We paused together for about a minute, staring at each other. My testicles started to shrivel up and retreat inside my body, meaning they were no longer inside the mug, making my raunchy joke abruptly unfunny and, I feared, inappropriate.
He retreated from the kitchen, leaving the washing machine stranded in the middle of the room and me looking dejected with my scrotum hanging tentatively above a mug. He ran out of the house, jumped in his van and drove away at a blistering pace, leaving me to contemplate my shame. I looked down at the mug and noticed it was the mug I bought at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, and concluded that his objection and silent departure must have been a result of his disdain for Spanish art. If only I had taken the time to find a less offensive mug to put my joke into.
That happened six months ago now, and the washing machine is still in the middle of the kitchen, reminding me of my blunder. Whenever I see it I feel just like that isolated machine: totally out of order. Sometimes I stand on it late at night, contemplating my failure. Occasionally I wail, banging the drum of the machine slowly yet forcefully to punctuate my despair. I haven’t washed a garment of clothing since that incident, and nobody drops by to hear me scream.