Laundromat

Sometimes a moment carried a weight that it did not merit on its own. It fell smack dab in the middle of an ordinary day. A day on which nothing particularly good or bad happened. It coalesces in the mind to create a vivid imprint, almost emotional in its capture. Throughout the rest of one’s life, occasionally, circumstances align, and they remember the moment briefly, feeling the feelings of it, seeing it in their mind and almost even smelling it. Such recollections are fleeting, here then gone. The person experiencing them becomes distracted once again by the present. The moment is then lost until the next time a memory flash brings it forward again.

The laundromat was drenched in light that poured in overzealously from windows on two sides of the large room. It was decorated in the color scheme that signaled it had been built or remodeled sometime in the 70’s. The light from the windows cast a golden glow that seemed to echo off the large beige machinery and the white tile floor with flecks of orange and yellow. It bounced again off the bright orange chairs, sailing around the room in a flurry.

The large machines filled the rooms with the sounds of agitators swishing water back and forth. They rumbled happily with their loads. It was fascinating to watch someone slide quarters into the horizontal slots on the top of the washers and slide the metal forward in to start a load. The dryers were even more of a treat. The glass circle fronts provided a window to another world. In that world everyone’s clothes tumbled and jumbled around inside. Clothes became rainbow people doing cartwheels as they rose and fell. I could run up and down the row of dryers, watching the rainbows dance and twirl.

The air was filled with the pleasant scent of laundry soap and dryer sheets. Some brought Tide and others brought store brand detergent. In that room, it did not matter. All the scents mixed into one generic but pleasant aroma. I sat on the orange plastic chair and looked around. My legs did not touch the floor, instead they swung heroically back and forth, a habit I would never break.

While the noise of the room was loud, it was not irritating. It soothed in the way a white noise machine can only hope to achieve. Lofting in the background was music from someone’s radio. Lionel Richie softly serenaded us.

People went to the laundromat when they could fit it in their schedules. No matter what “hurry up and get it done” brought them there, they had to stop a minute, slow down and wait for the machines to finish the loads. Time speeds up for no one, and every one there waited together as they completed the menial chore. They might say a few words back and forth, or simply nod their heads in a quick hello.

Sometimes, I feel that moment come back in a quick flash. It might be the scent of my dryer sheets as I stand in my own laundry room folding towels. Other times, I walk into a room that has nothing to do with laundry, but the light hits right and glows gold. It could even just be the feel of the afternoon, the time of day we went there, or catching a piece of a song playing.

For a split second, time travels, spiraling up and around. Furiously the past and the present collide, making me remember something my mind had let go of to make room for other things. Briefly my mind examines it. I revel in the textures and scents of the memory.

Just as quick, it’s gone. Until the next time.

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