The intricate sounds of Orozco’s Guitarra and
the beep, beep, from passing automobiles... [+]
LARGE, MEDIUM, & SMALL MACHINES!
WE’LL CLEAN YOUR CLOTHES FOR YOU!
.70/LB - WITH FOLDING
READY IN 24 HOURS
With an earnest face,
you stroll down the hill,
from your studio apartment,
to the corner laundromat,
with your shopping cart of
bagged dirty clothes,
wearing all that is cleaned,
grey sweats pants, a big brown shirt,
miss-matched socks, and flip-flops,
flapping, flapping, flapping,
your hair in a curly shoulder-length mess,
and you look across the avenue
at the empty lot where the old laundromat
once stood, remembering that Sunday
you saw the laundromat’s roof in flames,
thick smoke bellowing to Heaven.
The old laundromat burned down, so to you
the stroll down the hill to Soap and Subs
is a welcome change; paying for cabs,
to wash clothes thrice a month,
what an expensive shame!
Flap! Flap! Flap! Your flops
smack, smack, smack the back
of your heels, and you
open the new glass doors to the
aromatic smells of fabric softener and
dirty clothes cleaned, and to the
whir, whir, whir of hot machines.
There’s a banana smile on your buttercream countenance,
your almond brown eyes looking about the novel place,
at the large, medium and small machines;
at flat televisions playing news, novellas, and sports;
at a clerk, to your right, folding someone’s clothes;
at mommas reading, and their shrill children running,
cavorting, pushing carts, playing arcade games,
and only winning reprimands. And, you see yourself,
a younger you, eight years old, smashing the
multicolored buttons to control your fighters in
Marvel Vs. Capcom, yelling for every loss.
You always had your brunette hair plaited, then,
and loathed wearing dresses; jeans, a shirt,
and some sneakers to ruff-up were all
you wore. It mattered none,
boys liked you anyway, with your banana smile,
and amiable japes.
Money was scant, mom went to school and worked late,
father absconded to another’s comfort, and all
you desired — so you remember it — was that you
wanted to be good at that game.
You went searching in couches,
in everyone’s bags, in cars, and even pulled out your teeth,
then you started asking family, and that was in vain,
until you remembered, then, that there was Mrs. McKlein.
She managed the laundromat, where you soon began to work,
pushing carts, cleaning machines, and moping the floors,
for ten-dollars in quarters a week. You worked
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Your parents
were unaware, and you used the money for candy, too.
The boys hated you, then, you always beat them in every game,
with cheesy hands, and one day, you even won a bear
with the claw crane. They pulled your hair,
so you punched their eyes. That was the last time
you saw The Boys.
You moved when mother was promoted
to Head of Human Resources, to a bigger apartment,
where she purchased you a Playstation console
with all your favorite games. You played from dusk to dawn,
and she took the console away. “Study!” She reprimanded!
Oh! What a shame!
“Madam! Are you okay?”
The clerk folding clothes asks.
You are still standing in the entranceway,
smiling like a madwoman.
“Anything I can help you with?”
She is persistent.
That banana smile! A genial nod that says, “I’m okay,”
and flap, flap, flap, you wash your clothes in the big machines,
that whir, whir, whir, and in the hot ones, too,
laughing at the pugnacious and pleasurable youth
you left behind, leaving black eyes, and
working for a game.
You laugh at the money you’re saving in Soaps and Subs,
after the fire, after the forty-dollars cabs, after finding
employment as an administrator; saving was never in
your mind, then, even after you overheard Mrs. McKlien
say to her husband, “The money she spends
in that machine goes back to us.”
He laughed, and said,
“She must stay!”