“What do you mean you’ve never done laundry?”
“Dave does it.”
“What about before Dave?”
“Mom did it.”
“What about upstate? Chowchilla?”
“My bunkies took care of it.”
“You’re a spoiled princess, aren’t you?”
“No. I hand wash my own silks at home. I hand wash my own intimates here.”
He laughed, the booming laughter that shook all the badges on his body and made his aviator glasses tip on his face. I interrupted his laughter to continue my thought, “Besides, if I were a 30-year-old man who married young, you wouldn’t be surprised at all.”
“I always said you were a feminist.”
“You being a chauvinist does not make me a feminist. Holding myself to the same standards I hold everyone to, male or female, does not make me a feminist. Being a feminist is an actual real definable thing. It’s a word. In the dictionary and everything. You know?” I leaned in close and pronounced the word slowly, pantomiming with my hands. “The diiiictionaaaary?”
He swats at my hands. “I know what a dictionary is, Ra.” Then, pausing to look directly at me, “Just like I know what an asshole is.”
I smile, as purposely-unaffected-looking as I could manage. “Aw sucks, Mr. Irube, just ‘cos you don’t know some words doesn’t mean you’re an asshole.”
His laugh barks through the room. Point, me.
Hours later, I’m reading in my cell and he bangs the door as he walks by. He’s going home for the next two days. I stick my head into the hallway, “Big plans for your weekend?”
“Yeah,” he says, pirouetting around mid-stride to look at me straight faced. “I gotta handwash my silks.”
He spins forward and strides on, his laughter almost as loud as the door that crashes close.
A couple days later, I hear him walk in with the sunrise, filling the sleepy, empty hallways with his trademark whistle. It’s always the same tune– The good, the bad, the ugly.
I never know if he’s wielding the three, or warning them.
Something Irube this way comes.
He pops my door open from the cop shop, his signal for me to come out of my room, usually to do some voluntary care of the unit.
I shut the door with a lady-like slam.
Irube pops it open again. Then after a minute pause, he rests his finger on the button, letting the door make a shotgun-like crack over and over again. My bunky groans, my hallway starts to wake up, and though I can’t see him, I know he’s smiling at the upheaval he’s causing.
I give in, walking down the hall, and without knocking– I open the cop shop door and bark “what!”.
Instead of his regular partners, it’s one of our third watch regulars, and I blush.
“Sorry, Mr. Patia,” I chirp.
He’s my age or younger, rounder, and terminally-afflicted by uncaring. Irube cares too much. Side by side, in temperament and looks, they are different.
Mr. Patia plops down on a chair and looks at me curiously. “You’re always asking to volunteer on my shift. He pops you out for volunteering, why’d you give him a hard time?”
Mr. Irube is enjoying my need to be unerringly polite with those I don’t know well. He leans forward, mock concern filling his face, “Yes, Ra. Tell us why.”
I’ve never flipped anyone off in my life, but I’m tempted. It’s too early for this, but Patia’s obliviousness is tickling my funny bone, and Irube’s humor is contagious. I start to laugh and explain the previous conversation to Patia in a series of soundbites.
“This last time Irube was here, he called me a princess. I just wanted to point out that princesses don’t wake up at 5am to mop floors, clean public bathrooms, empty trashcans, and then prep a kitchen– without pay or credit or reason.”
Patia looked at Irube. “She has a point.”
Irube choked on his water, barking at Patia. “Don’t let her get in your head. She talks people into thinking in circles.”
“Don’t tell Mr. Patia how to think.” I argue.
Irube groans. “Everyone does not need you to protect them, Ra.”
“I know, but just because someone can defend themselves, doesn’t mean they should have to. Plus, you can’t use your bully-voice on someone just because they are being reasonable.”
Irube starts to bang his head against the table. A slow, deliberate thunk of his oversized bald head against the fake wood.
Patia watches our stalemate for a full minute before finally interrupting. “You can go back to your room if you want.”
Mr. Irube and I look at him blankly.
“He needs me for something.” I explain slowly. I don’t know what it is, but it is necessary and it is for the betterment of the girls or the unit. Nothing I say to him, or the other way around, affects our shared belief that our unit deserves the best. We both know that, but rather than explaining– Irube waves his hand and marches out of the room, and I follow.
“Today, Ra.” he booms to the empty unit. “It’s laundry day.”
The point is his, and we laugh. Hours later at breakfast, the girls want to know what we found so funny so early in the morning, but I couldn’t really explain. I was in the middle of laundry.
I washed sixty blankets that day. Patia showed me how to run the machine, and Irube taught me how to distinguish between all the different parameters of laundry. The girls asked if they could help, but Irube shooed them away.
I shook my head at the pointlessness. “You know, when I come home, Dave is just going to go right back to doing the laundry.”
“Probably,” he agreed, “But life gets messy. One of the most important things to learn, no matter what all your schooling and diiiiicctionaaaarrrriies might say, is how to clean up after it.”
That was about 16 months ago, according to my journal. Dave hadn’t died yet, I hadn’t come home.
I wash my own blankets now, blankets that the state doesn’t own. Blankets that no one else has slept on, bled on, leaked on.
Life got messy, after all– but I’m learning how to clean up after it.
This post is for the weekly Daily Post Discover prompt, “learning”. It’s also a throwaway note section from the book because I’m so bad with the dialogue and I’ve decided I have no interest in learning how to do that better– I’ll just tell a story a different way.
Is there any type of writing that you don’t even want to bother seeing if you can master? How are you with laundry? When did you do your first load of laundry?