Sleepless, Humid Nights

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Last night was the first night of the year where it was too hot to sleep in my apartment. I have lived in many a room and not many of them have seen air conditioning. I also have been working on a rather large project for work; hence my lack of posts, but I thought I’d share this poem. I wrote it when I lived in a small town, in another apartment without air conditioning, and it was a grueling night. The town I lived in literally had one tiny strip, ironically, called Main Street, which was just a strip of ‘odd’ businesses, with some of the typical essentials like a gas station. In any event, right across the street was this laundromat that was always ‘bumping.’ It could be 2:30 AM and stuff when going on that laundry mat. It was next to this ‘yacht club,’ which was not on the water and was more of a ‘bar.’ There were some knock out, dead fights that occurred in the alley between the laundry mat and the bar. In any event, there was never a lack of boredom when I could not fall asleep because my apartment was hot and sticky. I specifically remember the night I got up and wrote this poem. So here’s to those of you who dream of air conditioning and not having to go to laundry mats, may we all be blessed with some cool AC and an in unit washer and dryer. Until then, one good thing that can come out of sticky nights is possibly a poem.

24 Hour Rinse Cycle

It’s been a long night.
3AM or so.
Sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor,
Humid early July.
Living room windows open
Blowing in nothing but strange words,
Postcards from the coin operated laundromat across the street.
Who knew washing sheets, bras, boxer briefs
could be so wild? Vile?

One mother screams
I’m not a single mother anymore, repeatedly.
I want to scream out the window
into the still black night
I’m a mandated reporter, you know.

Another couple fights violently.
Two woman sit on a bench with children.
They drink Dr. Pepper from the soda machine
I have vivid dreams of power washing
when my eyes do finally fall asleep.

The one woman tells the other,
This is the town where the young hang out.
She is maybe twenty two.
The only bar in this town is a Yacht Club,
ironically it is not on water.

Yacht clubs were supper clubs
for the rich elderly when I was growing up.
Old Fashions before the hipsters found them,
Grasshoppers, fried chicken dinners, and
because this is Wisconsin, the obligatory
Friday fish fry.

Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh,
the dryer’s tumble, white undershirts,
thrift store jeans, uniforms.
I wonder where I make sense here.
Not quite young, not quite old,
a drifter for the first time in life waking up alone.

I spent a lot of time at laundromat.
It was once an event
Blue Nun wine, some friends,
outside on the curb,
glugging the wine to pass time
until the dryer beeps.

The stains of my twenties bleached away.
My thirties have had been a lot harder to get out.
I used to imagine having a house with my own washing machines,
a whole room devoted to the laundry of my family,
but as a white collar professional, I still can’t afford a one bedroom
with the ‘amenities’ of a washer and dryer.

My marriage a permanently ruined garment.
No children to speak of to beg for quarters.
My friends have ascended from coin operated.
My body can’t even handle cheap wine.

With my dirty laundry,
I enter the laundry mat
with my fake smile I wash off with tears
after I take my basket home and fold
clothes I always imagined too big for my body.

The act of washing out stains is not easy.
The tired face of an elderly woman
winces a smile at me. It is an apology dressed as a greeting.
A gentle reminder,

how different our stories become,
from the stories we write, protagonists,
to the clicks of the channels changing,
and the clicks and tumbles of loose dryer change

The ink stains on our jeans, reminding us,
no matter how hard we try,
our endings are marked by stains of ink

not penned by our own hands.

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