Some days, you just can’t win. My life is one of those days.
Most people who work hard and aren’t idiots will usually get to a point in their thirties where they can afford the space for a washing machine. They may opt out of owning a dryer, but they could have one. Let’s just say I’m not living that dream. And I’ve worked damned hard. I guess that puts me in idiot territory. Aw well. The stories are funnier that way.
I once lived the dream. I once owned (sort of, I mean, they came with the rental, so I guess I rented?) a thirty-year-old washer and dryer. That was cool. Granted, the washing machine would escape if the load was unbalanced and hop across the laundry room and start to make a break for the kitchen. No, I don’t mean it would shudder and rock back and forth. I mean it would leap and frolic like a giddy stallion. Once, it nearly succeeded in crashing through the adjacent bathroom wall. Never had I thought my reply to my husband asking me how my day was would be: “Well, I had to wrestle the washing machine out of the bathroom.” That’s my life. I thought I was going to be a veterinarian, but I ended up wrangling washing machines.
At this point in my life, I don’t have a washing machine or a dryer. That’s ok. We can’t have everything. I do have a dishwasher, so I’m pretty sure I’m almost living the dream.
So today I decided I’d take the clothes to the laundromat. Normally, The Melion’s Spouse does that. Or we both go and bring lunch and it’s like a romantic picnic except that everything smells of hot, stale lint and the body odor rolling off the weird dude sitting next to you clearly hoping you’ll offer him some of your WalMart salad and, perhaps if he acts extra thirsty by smacking his lips a few times, a swig of your energy drink.
But since The Melion’s Spouse had to work and I just finished up classes for the semester, I decided I’d be helpful and take the clothes to the laundromat. Because, hey, I do thoughtful things.
Look, I’d just like to interrupt the rest of this story and say, in my defense, I am capable of handling most things in my life. I’ve certainly gone to the laundromat on my own before without incident. Countless times. I can function. Seriously.
I think I would have been fine if I hadn’t discovered that our laundromat has a book-borrowing station. It’s actually a rather twee little thing where the shelving unit is designed to look like a washing machine so that you even swing upon an old washing machine door to get to the books. I was amused. The selection was largely romance novels–the really old ones with heaving-bosomed women rocking some of that sweet 80s big hair–which are not my cup of tea. And I really am not going to read a bodice-ripper in the laundromat where everybody can judge me for my sultry reading tastes. Because I really don’t like being judged. Keep that last part in mind–it’ll be important in a moment.
I did find a book that claimed it was a humorous memoir. Ok, sure. I like those. I also like irony. Let’s ponder that for a moment.
Ok. Moment’s over. Back to the story.
I sat down to read the book while I waited for my wash. It was a rather busy day considering that the weather was nice, it was a Saturday and it was Cinco de Mayo. The Battle of Puebla has been reduced to a drinking holiday (then again, so has every holiday, but at least most people can tell you why they’re getting drunk on Christmas–the answer usually has something to do with family trauma. Although I would like to say that my family doesn’t have a holiday drinking story that involves somebody barfing in the manger. The weirder part of that sentence is that I know two unrelated people who have Christmas memories of a dad or uncle acting as a very un-wanted magi and offering a gift that made frankincense sound appealing. But I digress).
So I sat down on the bench in front of the window and began to read. I wish I could remember what I was reading, but it was by an author I’d never heard of and I ended up not reading much of it. But what I did read was hilarious. Much funnier than this, to be honest. So I’m sorry, if I remembered the author, you could have been reading that instead. But I can’t, so you’ve had frolicking washing machines, vomiting in mangers and heaving bosoms on romance novel covers. If I ever wonder why people don’t talk to me, point me to this post.
Let me be honest: that book was funny. Damned funny. So funny that I was sitting on the wood bench and laughing in silent convulsion. Desperate to not look like a crazy chortling lady who was probably waiting for my many, many blankets soaked in cat urine to be finished in the wash, I fought to control my laughter. You know when you’re sitting somewhere and have a funny thought and it’d be inappropriate to laugh, so you make weird little hiccoughing noises as your body shakes because you don’t want to be thrown out of the business meeting and be the reason that you are, yet again, unemployed? That was me in the laundromat. The rumbling of the machines mostly covered my muted coughs of laughter, but there came a point that even the silent laughter was so much that I was crying.
So there I was, shaking, hiccoughing, and crying on a bench in the laundromat. People were starting to take notice. Mostly, they ignored me. If you haven’t been to a laundromat in my area, you may not appreciate how my behavior so far was pretty much normal. When you live somewhere that has a meth problem so bad they need to give talks in kindergarten (not about meth, per se, but about meth-related issues. I’m not even sure what that is, so maybe I need to re-mediate kindergarten. In my day, we learned how to spit milk out our noses and how to kick a boy in the balls because he tried to lift up our dresses even though we only had a vague and limited concept of what we were kicking. And we thought we were bad-arse with our milk-snot and crotch-kicks. Oh for the simpler times). Well, when you live where I live, a person rocking back and forth on the bench isn’t a noteworthy thing.
And I’d have stayed normal until I leaned back on the bench. That’s what did it. Suddenly, something leapt up from behind the bench as a lightning-quick flash in the corner of my eye and grazed my head.
Life went from funny to fight-or-flight horrifying in half a heartbeat. The ol’ adrenal medulla hijacked the rest of my brain, bringing my body along with it in an amazing display of hormonal reflex.
I launched myself off the bench and whirled around in full panic. Vision narrowing, hearing tunneling out. Like a primordial beast, I bellowed out a shout of battle (which may or may not have involved blasphemy, but it was blasphemy terrifying enough that one lady ran from the laundromat at a dead sprint) and threw a punch straight for the source of my terror.
In those moments, time rearranges itself. As my fists came up and I shot out a right cross, time stretched itself slow and thin like syrup oozing across a countertop. Somewhere, in the back of my brain, in a part that was still desperately fighting for rationalization through the hormonal cascade, a tiny voice of indomitable reason reminded me that I was about to put my fist clean through a glass window. It was a quiet thought, like a whisper in a whirlwind, but in that split second, some part of me assessed that what I was about to do was going to hurt. A lot.
Just before I landed my strike, reason won over panic and the part of my brain that saves me from myself cut the throttle and stomped down on the brakes. My punch dissipated into a limp but forceful slap on the glass. And away hopped a bright green, gangly-legged grasshopper.
The whole laundromat just went silent. The children who had been climbing up on the machines stared. Their mother edging towards them to scoop her progeny up and carry them to safety with all the trepidation as though I’d been a ravening wolf that had lunged through the door intent on the delicious blood of innocents.
And there I stood, having just engaged in a slap-fest against a grasshopper. Nearly a dozen pair of eyes stared at me, judged me to my soul. People who had shown up in bedroom slippers and stained pajamas were eyeing me with pity and fear. One guy, who had been just a few feet from me, had scrambled back against a row of washing machines and was pressed as though he could vanish deep inside and away from the crazy lady slapping at windows. The judgement was burning my skin and searing it away until only my miserable soul would be visible to everybody in that lint-scented Dante-ian nightmare.
So I did the only thing I could think that would let me salvage my shredded dignity.
With a self-satisfied nod, I turned back to the window and announced as though I’d caught a dog soiling the rug, “And that’ll be enough of that, Satan.” Then I snatched up my book and sat back down with an ankle across the other knee and proceeded to stare blankly at a page as though I could bore my eyes straight through and boil anybody who looked at me.
And there I sat without moving until it was time to transfer my laundry to the dryer.
The woman who sprinted out didn’t return. As for the grasshopper? We made peace. It sat on my purse until it was time for me to leave, and then I carried it outside and let it hop away into the sunshine. And somewhere, that mother is telling her kids that they should stay away from drugs so that they don’t become a chortling, crying, yelling woman in a laundromat.