Last night, I went to the laundromat to do a couple quick loads of laundry. I do not like doing laundry, but I almost like going to the laundromat. There's something calming about it. I'm usually alone when I go - Manny stays home with the kids. There's the ambient noise of the machines running, the clean, detergent smell, the methodical way in which everyone goes about their business. Usually, in between washing and drying, I have time to read - so all in all, it makes for a typically peaceful experience.
So last night, I had just gotten my clothes out of the dryer and started folding. I was minding my own business, there weren't many other people there, it was quiet. Then the door opens and in barges this massive woman. She's wearing stretchy grey sweatpants - tight enough to outline the cellulite on her upper thighs. They're too short - hitting above her ankles, and not intentionally. She's wearing some sort of backless, slip-on, chunky tennis shoe, and an off-white Tommy Hilfiger shirt - the kind with just the logo all big across the chest. Her hair was, at one point, blonde. Now it's just sort of yellow, with about three inches of dark brown roots. She had no makeup on - other than a thick rim of navy blue eyeliner. She had a serious overbite and pretty much no chin. She is carrying a giant, cracked hamper stuffed full of clothes.
This is just the beginning of the parade. Behind her trudge two skinny girls. The oldest is named Kristy - I know this because the mom shouts at her to "go to the double-loaders." Kristy has her mother's bad teeth and lack of chin. She is probably about fourteen. She is wearing a wrinkled, faded IU t-shirt, inside out, with her purple bra showing through, brown pants that drag the floor, and imitation Chuck Taylors. She has short, mousy brown hair with dirty blonde streaks. Her younger sister follows behind her. I will later learn her name is Shayla. She is, at most, two years younger - maybe twelve. She, too, is wearing an inside-out, wrinkled t-shirt, and has both arms covered in those little rubber bracelets. She has the same hair as her sister - only with pink streaks instead of blonde. She has inherited the same unfortunate jawline and profile, as well.
The trio does, indeed, head straight for the double-loaders. Mom drags a metal chair across the floor, making an awful noise. She plops herself down in it and gets out her cell, dials a number. The girls frantically start packing clothes into the washers, shoving up against the doors until they lock shut. They measure and pour the detergent, then start the washers. Mom gets off the phone and starts barking at them, telling them they did it wrong. The girls ignore her and head for the pinball machine. The mom again sits down in the chair and turns on the TV. She flips through channels and finally stops on "The Dukes of Hazzard." Shayla comes back over to their little "station" for more quarters, and all of a sudden, Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love" starts playing. I can't figure out where it's coming from. Then Mom starts screaming at Shayla to "answer the goddamn phone, girl!" She hands her mom the phone, and Mom starts in on this awful conversation with her own mother about how she has so many bills to pay and how she can't afford to pay them all because she "ain't gettin' no support from that bastard." It's a crazy, noisy, really stereotypical scene that has cut into the peace of my usual laundry-doings.
But it also got me thinking. Thinking about the way other people live. The way other people are. Single moms. The cycle of single motherhood. I wondered how these girls were like in school. If they were in school. Were they made fun of? Were they invisible? Were they the bullies? Did their mom help them with their homework? Did they feel like eachother was all they had? Or did they not think about that kind of thing at all? Did they listen to Kid Rock and make bowls of EasyMac in the evenings? Would they grow up to follow their mother's footsteps, probably getting knocked up by some thug kid who wore a fake gold chain around his neck and called her "whore" to her face?
And what about their mom, anyway? How much did she care? Was it just about getting by? Was it about what satisfied her? Did she pay attention to her daughters? Did she worry about them and what was going on in their lives? Did she worry about how they'd end up? Did she care about them getting an education, eating properly, wearing clothes that were weather-appropriate?
I really wondered about them while I finished folding my own daughters' warm, clean clothes. I'm sure I'm making some assumptions, but I don't think I'm too far from how it is. Those girls looked tired and worn and sad that you could read it on their faces.
I left the laundromat hoping they'd be okay.