The Laundry Room — Part 1

I just moved into a place with the strangest laundry room. While I gather my wits dealing with this weird, weird set-up, I am remembering happier laundry days and rooms.

Recently I shared a washer and dryer in the garage of my duplex. This was as close as it gets to having my own washer and dryer in my own home. Here was my car snuggled in close behind me and there were my shelves of paint cans and plastic storage bins.

I soon figured out that my neighbor LOVED to do laundry. What she was washing all the time I never figured out, but she had those machines chugging and clanking away three days a week – Saturday and Sunday and Wednesday, her mid-week day off. Luckily I work at home, so I was able to do my wash easily enough on any of the other days. During my eight years there, we had problems with men and family members, but never with laundry.

Laundry Room
Door on left with vent is laundry room.

Before that, I lived in a small complex of eight units near the beach. The washer and dryer were located in a small, very small, storage room at the back of the building with a door on the alley. It was funky, but for some reason, I enjoyed it. I found an early timeslot to slip into the little room. Not too difficult, since most of the tenants were young people often slept in.

This room inspired a poem, which appeared in “A Year in Ink, Vol. 1” published by San Diego Writers, Ink.

Not All Laundromats Are Sad

—Idea laundered from Stephen Dunn

Compared to the laundry room in my apartment building the neighborhood laundromat is shangri-la even though ours is covered with cracked posters of surfers on curling waves someone has put up to make it seem inviting so that when we’re stuffing smelly socks into the washer and pouring gooey blue soap over the top we can imagine ourselves at a beachside resort running through a few towels and a bikini easy to do here because we really are just a few hundred feet from the ocean and surfers often walk by in the sunshine as I’m digging out my quarters and pushing them in with a clunk and waiting for the rushing gushing sound of water that will soak away a week’s worth of sweat spills and grimy toil before the machine shudders to a stop and waits for my return holding its damp digested mass until I can pick it apart and throw it piece by piece into the dryer checking first to see if the previous user cleaned the lint screen which usually he or she has not but I really don’t mind because I enjoy plucking and rolling it off and even using it to wipe down the edges of the opening a blast furnace that will suck everything dry and then I enjoy the folding process the sense of completing something at least for another week easier than completing a poem and even though the little room is a sad neglected place compared to the one down on the corner which is clean and modern and bright and filled with beautiful people with beautiful bodies it suits me just fine with the tang of salt air and champion surfers for company.

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Settling in with Ghosts

Settling in. Week number five now. It takes awhile to feel the spirit or spirits of a new place. At first, there is too much bumping into boxes, walls, door jams to hear the stories here being narrated by ghosts and choreographed by shadows.

I lie awake at night and listen to new noises. Which noises are normal and which are not? Gurgling of pipes, creaking, knocking, scratching of branches, flutter of wings against the window. During the day there are hummingbirds hovering over the purple-blue morning glories. Outside the window, the night sky is as inky dark as it gets and I cannot tell what is out there. Suddenly a light goes on. Is it an automatic light sensing an animal, or my neighbor lighting up his room or a car’s headlights from the street? Another neighbor takes a shower and the pipes shudder and shake the walls as he turns off the water.

Shadows on wall

My cats are restless. They rattle the blinds trying to see into the night, jump on and off my bed several times before finally settling in. Yes, settling in. It takes awhile.

I do not believe in ghosts or anything supernatural. Nevertheless, ghosts can exist in our imagination, especially when we move into new homes. They can be remnants of what we imagine happened here – or even what we know happened here. I happen to know that the last occupant lost her job and her dog. She also found a dead cat on this front lawn, which I saw too while out walking. Did her dreams of joy drift away and leave the ghosts of sadness?

Or the opposite. Did joyous people live here – circus performers, artists, singers, dancers, cooks? Their laughter and creativity remain.

Shadows on CurtainOr maybe my new house is purged of ghosts and I can bring my own. What is that dream taunting me outside the window after the sun goes down and before it comes up again? What is that shadow on the wall – branches and leaves reaching toward me with a warning, or an embrace?