Jules was frantic. He was running out of underwear. Jules rifled through his top drawer. Where the hell were his briefs? The same Hanes briefs he’d been wearing for decades. Reva ordered some recently and three packages of six had arrived in a big box. He’d thrown them in the washing machine a few days ago with the rest of his dirty laundry. When the new underwear arrived, he’d thrown out some of the questionable ones. He searched in his closet. He checked the time. 6:28 a.m. It was 9:30 in Philly. Jules called Reva.
“Hey, Dad! What’s going on? I’m about to have a meeting.”
“Sorry to bother you Reva! I can’t find my damn briefs… the ones you sent me. I’m looking all over the goddamn place.” Jules was nearly out of breath, and made a “harrumph” sound.
“Okay. Calm down, Dad. You’ll find them. What did you do with them right after they arrived?” she asked.
“I took ‘em out of the box and threw them in to get washed.”
“Check the washer. Maybe they’re still in there, Dad,” Reva urged.
“Think so? Well that’d be dumb of me,” Jules replied.
Jules shuffled over to the corner laundry room. The washer did look full. He peered in. “Well, jeez. A full load, just waiting to be dried. Sorry, honey. I’ve got them. Love you.”
“Love you, Dad. Talk to you soon.” Reva hung up.
“What a way to start the day,” thought old Jules, as he put the damp clothes into the dryer. They must’ve been sitting in there for a day or two.
He went into the kitchen and started the coffee. He took an onion bagel from the bag in the bread box that sat on the counter. He put each half in the toaster. A few minutes later, he was sitting at the table, chomping into the bagel with cream cheese. He took a sip of the coffee. The dryer chugged along. Jules couldn’t believe he forgot about the laundry two days ago. What was happening to his mind? All those years of the same briefs. Underwear. A memory drifted up and into his consciousness.
Jules remembered when Reva was starting school, maybe five years old. Lisa always started the laundry and Jules did the folding, usually on Friday nights while watching the Sixers on TV. Jules would sort the clothes into piles first. All the underwear and socks on one side, the t-shirts in one big heap, and the nicer shirts on hangers. The pants were last.
The movie played in Jules’ mind as if it were last night, though it was actually a scene from the late-1970s. Going through the laundry, Jules thought about little Reva in kindergarten. The family underwear: his big white briefs; Lisa’s collection of durable cotton pastel underwear, an occasional pair of elegant silk panties; and then those tiny little, brightly-colored pieces of clothing, some with horses or rainbows on them. His little girl—out of diapers by then for a few years—wearing her underwear like all the little girls and the little boys in kindergarten.
It stopped him mid-fold. He remembered beginning to imagine Reva as she grew into a big girl, then a teenager, and eventually a young woman. How she would choose her own underwear someday. How she’d take off someone else’s underwear someday. How they’d take off hers. It was a crazy thought. Or… it was a natural thought that made Jules the new father feel a bit crazy. Reva’s crooked smile. Her missing top front tooth. Her wild swings of emotion when things didn’t go how she’d hoped, like when they were stuck in traffic, or the donut shop ran out of chocolate frosted, or Neve ate the last brownie. Something new every day.
At some point in the future, that same child would be thinking about sex… and here he was… sorting out his underwear from his wife’s and from little Reva’s.
Most fathers would want their daughters to become sexual beings… eventually. But the difference between a kindergartner and a high-schooler was an impossible chasm to figure out.
Jules had spent many moments thinking about trust… and how he would sustain trust, grow the trust that already existed between himself and his little girl, as she grew up. He wanted her to feel what he often questioned in his own family. That feeling of safety we all need. That sense you can talk about anything with your mom and dad, or at least one of them. Jules and his brothers hadn’t known that feeling. Suspicion? Yes. Fear? Yes. Trust? No.
Old man Jules sat and sipped his lukewarm coffee. He finished his bagel. The dryer dinged. The underwear, among the other items of his clothing, was clean and dry.