Mabel’s Countdown

Mabel drags the wicker hamper into the laundromat, bleach smells wafting out the open doors. She’s had a feeling of deju vu since she woke up. As if today is a script that has already been written. She’d slept poorly, how could she not, after that argument with Tom? but this morning she felt lighter than usual, liberated in some small way. And she’d packed up the laundry and left before Tom had awoken, driving the few short blocks through the empty streets to the laundromat on Temple.  

She dumps the contents of the hamper into a wheeled wire basket and rolls it to a washing machine. She drops one, two, three quarters into the coin shoot. She loads the clothing, shakes in some detergent, and shuts the lid. Sitting on a molded Formica chair, she still has this feeling of already knowing. Something is coming, she thinks. Some kind of change.

There’s only one other person inside, a young man in a shabby sweatshirt, leaning against a spinning dryer, smoking a cigarette, his head tilted back as he ejects smoke rings up to the ceiling. One, two, three. Things need to be counted today, Mabel decides.

She looks through the plate glass window at the houses across the street, little wooden bungalows. She feels like she’s lived in this town forever, with its ramshackle houses, freeway overpasses, bougainvillea spilling from roofs. She can see in both directions of 4th st; downtown one way, the college the other. She dropped out last year. Not something she wants to think about.

After the argument last night, she stepped onto the porch and was struck by the beauty of the sky, bands of red clouds low on the horizon. Arguments were like fevers, she thought. Eventually they pass, but everything is slightly altered. She looked up at the moon outlined with an extra edge, felt the warm air poised as if for another assault. She was getting used to feeling alone, feeling permanently distant from Tom. 

The washer clunks to a stop. She reaches into her pocket. Out of change. She plucks a dollar bill from her wallet and heads to the change machine in the corner. She’s had bad luck with this machine, sometimes it takes her bills and gives nothing back. But today, she slips the dollar into the machine’s pursed lips and with a whirr it spits out three crisp ten dollar bills. One two three. Holy cow, she thinks. This means something. In the future, she’ll be able to look back, remember the dryers spinning, the little bungalows, the feeling of her life making a turn, even without Tom, even far from this town, a summer day firmly snagged in her memory. 

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash