Saturday 18 June 2022

'In the Midst of a Global Pandemic, Your Washing Machine Gives Up the Ghost' by Patricia Q. Bidar

 Like the garbage disposal and floor heater. Before the layoff, it was tough to break away for a workman’s long window. Today’s feat is to scramble the quarters for the laundromat.

You’ve “sheltered” alone for a year. Instead of waiting alone in the car, you stay. It’s hot and moist, like in your childhood. The same molded orange chairs; the ceiling-mounted TV. Dried-thin softener sheets litter cement floors.

Two young women chat about a double date after church on Sunday. Their eyes are merry above their masks. The clothes they fold are sweet. Bright. Beside you, a man wearing a nylon soccer shirt slumps nearly prone. You hate men’s cologne, but his smells wonderful.

That famous San Francisco chocolate is really made in your town of overflowing trash cans, nail salons, and buckled sidewalks. The factory’s a quarter mile from this laundromat. As close as the emergency room. The confection smell perfumes such unpretty places.

The ceiling-mounted TV’s volume swells. The nearby casino blares wide-grinning winners. “You could be next.”  There’s a sale-a-bration at “your” Acura dealer. According to the news, your county’s experiencing a mass exodus.

When the machine buzzes, you shove hot towels, laundered-thin t-shirts, into pillowcases. Your underpants cling like starfishes.

It isn’t true your washing machine has given up the ghost. It’s not broken at all. You’ve just been sequestered alone for so long in your tiny apartment, where nothing is broken but things inside of you have begun to stop working.

A father swings his giggling baby so the little one’s bare toes tap the buttons of the vending machine. He catches your eye and you both smile under your masks. You tilt your head and crinkle your eyes, so he’ll know. The door chimes and you all turn to check out the new arrival.

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