The smell of Gain and dryer sheets is so thick I can feel it in my pores. A fan spins in rhythm with the massive dryers. l think of all the places I’ve watched my clothes spin. There was the laundry room in my dormitory building where I alternated between studying textbooks and the pages of Vogue magazine. I made the mistake of leaving my dry load unattended -one time- and someone stole every pair of underwear from it. I waited my turn in the apartments that followed, roommates alternating laundry days. Then I moved away. I would walk as quickly as my legs and the halting tourists would allow me. Block after block down a New York City street. My nose numb, cheeks stinging, pulling my laundry behind me. Hours waiting among strangers. Counting quarters and minutes. Finally, I moved to an apartment with a laundry room on the first floor. I hurried into the elevator with a rolling cart, angrily punching buttons. If I didn’t retrieve my load fast enough someone would inevitably dump it all. No one really cared if your T-shirts stayed clean. They had pants to dry and places to be. Again, I moved. I remember standing on frigid tile pouring detergent with my back to the tv. I heard the words, “Michael Jackson found dead…” and nearly dropped the whole jug. I stepped out into my small backyard and looked up to the Pacific Northwest sky. A deep breath and the stinging reminder of mortality. Then away from the suburbs it was… a stacked unit in the bathroom closet of a city studio. Folding basket after basket, watching the skyline through floor to ceiling windows. Lonely as could be. Heart aching. Worse than being alone is feeling alone with someone right next to you. When I came back home, I was pregnant with little Ezzie. Sharing a house with six other people meant that even with a washer and dryer, laundromat visits were frequent. I remember it all now. The whole journey… all while watching blankets furiously spin. Life documented and remembered through the dirt that has been washed away. The stains being churned and rinsed.
A tug on my shirt brings me back. He wants the bag of quarters. We must buy more time.
We have a laundry room at home. Well, it’s more of an outdoor closet really. No air conditioning, concrete floor, accessed through the car port. I don’t think much has touched it except for dust and dirt since 1958. But it works. Or it did. Today I came here because the dryer was making a concerning sound.
I want to be frustrated with that. But then… if not for that, I wouldn’t have had cause to stand in this place of remembering. To see the whole story spin and tumble before my eyes. There is power in remembering. There is even more in the telling.
And hey, at least I didn’t have to pull us through the snow to get here.