Ironing Night

What’s more important? The fetish or the relationship?

When a man loves to dance the rumba, enjoys embroidery and owns three ironing boards, it’s inevitable that some of his friends will assume he’s gay.  Neville was untroubled by the beliefs of others and adopted a policy of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ regarding his sexuality.  On vacation he further confounded his friends’ expectations by scaling mountain peaks, roping steers in Arizona or white water rafting his way up rivers.

[private]But on a Wednesdays, when there were no dance classes, sewing circles or cocktail hours to attend, he could be found at home watching a black and white ‘weepie’ while simultaneously indulging his love of steam.  Crisp white shirts stood to attention on hangers around the room.  Egyptian cotton bed linen formed neat ranks on his Lloyd Loom chair and Neville pressed  pleats into his second-favourite dress shirt.  While Scarlett O’Hara flounced petulantly on and off screen, he spruced up the ruffles with generous puffs of steam.

Neville loved the smell.  That almost-singed, musty aroma reminded him of rotting logs, damp sand and soggy hounds.  Silk and polyester slithered against his fingertips as he gave the fabrics the lightest of goings over, crimping them gently,  just where they needed to be folded.

Even with the costume requirements of his dancing endeavours and  outdoorsy weekend pursuits, there was often insufficient laundry to occupy a whole evening.  Neville drew the line at ironing underwear; so instead, he washed machine-loads of monogrammed handkerchiefs, lightly starched to perfection. Or took down the curtains in the spare room to get them thoroughly, gratuitously, clean and neat.  Neville believed there was a distinction between an innocent enthusiasm and a full blown fetish.  He preferred to regard himself as merely keen on ironing, rather than actually dependent upon it.

Neville’s girlfriend, Marie, had learned to suffer his obsession silently.  Indeed, she was not above sometimes taking advantage of it.  She would arrive at his house toting a large holdall.  Coffee, cuddles and conversation generally ensued.  She would drop some frail excuse about being on her way back from the launderette, even though none but a simpleton would actually believe that a woman’s washing machine could break down so often. Then, somehow, one thing led to another; she would end up staying the night.

Marie would be woken, sometimes after midnight, by the sound of soft rustlings downstairs as Neville abducted her bag of laundry.  She would lie awake, warm and safe in Neville’s bed, wearing a secret smile.  In the room below, Neville ironed several weeks’ worth of work blouses and folded them lovingly into the bag as if the ironing fairy had been in the night.  The comfort Marie derived from his night-time devotion was enormous.  It took her back to childhood, when her mother washed and ironed her only school uniform after she’d gone to bed, having it ready for the next day, if still a little damp.

Marie reasoned that she wasn’t really exploiting Neville.  After all, he loved to iron, and she in turn also loved for him to iron.  Is there anything more beautiful than such a straightforward compatibility?  What could possibly go wrong with this perfect match?

Marie could never explain to herself why she found herself creeping down the stairs one night, wrapped in Neville’s dressing gown. From the hallway she could see him, bare-chested, bare-legged with steam iron held poised.  At first she  felt a tender fondness in response to the flushed expression of pleasure in Neville’s eyes.

It was only when she moved slightly to one side Marie realised that behind the ironing board her boyfriend was completely naked and sporting the most impressive erection she had ever seen.

Neville was a man who more often than not would need to be coaxed.  But the thing which struck Marie about the tableau in front of her was that Neville’s right hand was wrapped around the handle of the iron in a determined grip.  The hot surface was held no more than an inch from his face.  What she had first taken for an action shot had turned out to be a static pose.

Marie wished she had never ventured downstairs.  Neville’s cheek was flushed from the heat.  There was a pained expression on his face. From the slight twitch in the vein of his neck she could tell how close he must be.   Watching him alone, struggling in silence to achieve a climax without the slightest friction, she felt a terrible mix of prurience, repulsion and a certain fascination.  In the end, Marie couldn’t bring herself to watch Neville consummate the act.  She crept back upstairs, shivering to bed.  She lay awake for twenty minutes.  By the time Neville joined her she had already fallen asleep.

There was no sudden end to the relationship, but Marie never took her ironing to Neville’s house again.  Neville developed a restless, dissatisfied demeanour.  He became surly and withdrawn and eventually his invitations, to dinner or for days out,  dried up and shrivelled away.

In the years that followed, Marie managed her laundry alone, but it represented a constant reminder of the failed relationship.  Incompatible man after incompatible man took her out for lunch or a drink and she never felt the urge to give them her phone number.  Marie began to wonder whether she had made a dreadful mistake.

Late in the evening she sometimes stood by the window, plugged in the iron and stood inhaling the aroma of steam with a faint scent of fabric conditioner.  Try as she might, there was never the slightest hint of arousal at the presence of the iron itself, but one thing was guaranteed to provoke an erotic response.  Marie would close her eyes and imagine herself back in Neville’s lounge, kneeling beneath his ironing board.  As more years passed, she never decided whether she could have interposed herself between Neville and his ‘interest’, or whether she would always have remained subsidiary to his one true love.[/private]