The Man at the Laundromat

I accidentally scraped my knuckle on the inside wall of a washing machine.  A lone silent seated man watched me do it.  Earlier, he had watched the change machine refuse my dollar bill nine times and now he watched me wheel my monotonous shirts and pants and towels across the room in a wiry metal caged cart.  The knuckle didn’t stop bleeding.  My skin was dry and my heart rate high.  I caught the man glancing over at me numerous times with a blank face.  Maybe he was an old guitar teacher or a friend of a family member or someone I distantly used to know, but when he looked at me it felt like he knew every pathetic nook of my existence.  He saw my small plain underwear and my trembling hands.  He saw my cubicle clothes.  He saw the sweat in my eyebrows and my tongue fidgeting at the backs of my teeth.  He saw the blood dripping from my knuckle and knew it would be a long time before it would clot.

~ by josephmchugh on November 20, 2011.

One Response to “The Man at the Laundromat”

  1. I was doing laundry at a turnkey laundromat a few years ago. I specifically use the phrase turnkey laundromat to denote that it was a coin-operated one rather than any other type solely so this story isn’t berthed into the mind of the reader that I have more than a trivial amount of money. I was doing laundry, by way of washing machine, while I was across the street at a 7-11 purchasing chips. I didn’t leave my clothes attended because the probability alone of someone finding them valuable enough to steal was absurdly low. Further, someone that would find them valuable enough to steal would almost certainly have some sort of completely irrational mindset that simply could not be dissuaded by my presence alone. Regardless, for lack of anything more interesting to do, I returned to the turnkey laundromat.

    To pass the time, I skimmed through the magazines that were stacked on top of the turnkey soap vending machine. They were all damp copies of Analog from the mid-eighties. I read two time travel stories and six advertisements for digital wrist watches. There was a printing error in the magazine I was holding at the time; pages 6 through 14 had been inserted into the magazine twice. Pages 15 through 23 were missing. If I had not noticed this, I would have read four time travel stories and twelve advertisements for wrist watches. This would have been poignant to some, but it was all just patterns of matter to me.

    I didn’t have my phone with me, and I didn’t remember not taking my phone with me. There was someone else, in the opposite corner of the turnkey laundromat. They were sending text messages from a phone that was the exact model and color of my phone. At the time my phone was three years old, and at the time I purchased it, it was three years behind the times. The probability alone of someone having the same exact phone as me was absurdly low. I became intensely curious as to if this phone was mine, or his. I wouldn’t resort to physical confrontation beyond simply asking for it back, if I needed to. I wanted to know the truth of the situation more than anything. My curiosity was satisfied completely when someone called the phone and he answered with “‘Sup girl?”.

    Some time later, after I’d finished eating my chips as quietly as possible, my laundry had finished being washed, and then dried. When I left, I stole the misprinted Analog magazine from the mid-80s. This would have been poignant to some, but it was all just patterns of matter to me.

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