I was in the middle of reading a story about a tennis referee who was famous because John McEnroe screamed at her once, when I got the urge to go out. She bludgeoned her husband with his World’s Best Golfer coffee mug and then stabbed him with the shards to finish the job. It had been weeks since I felt like leaving the house. Even though I knew I wouldn’t get too far, I took a shower and got dressed. I decided to go to the dirty part of the neighborhood so as not to be reminded of my unhappiness. An attractive, young and hip couple in love crossed my path and I got as far as the nearest bus stop. I sat on the bench; dizzy with envy and nauseous from the traffic exhaust fumes and waited for the next urge.
After 15 minutes a thirty-something woman in a very short dress and opaque tights sat next to me. She hauled a cart full of dirty laundry. I had never seen a white person with a cart like that. In this city, only immigrants carry those carts to the Laundromat.
It wasn’t long before she started to talk. She told me that going to the Laundromat was a constant reminder of her failures. She believed that not owning a washer and a dryer was a failure. Because of this, not laziness, she stressed, she let the dirty clothes pile up for weeks. Also, she could wait because most of her garments were dry clean and she had a lot of underwear because rather than washing it, it was easier to buy more. Last time she counted she had 89 pairs of panties, not including the tattered ones she couldn’t bring herself to throw away and that she wore during her period.
She’s a panty hoarder, I thought.
It really bothered her when men looked at the contents of her laundry basket. It seemed that washing underwear should be a private activity. She was disgusted when she caught a glimpse of manly skid marks and no one needed to see what she wore under her skirt. She had a predilection for black lace and leopard print thongs. She took the first breath of this one-way conversation and continued.
The biggest shock of her life came late and alerted her to her naïveté. People seem so normal until they casually reveal something that happened in their childhood. As if it was no big deal. But it’s so huge that of course they had to be affected deeply. Like getting molested or date raped in college. Nothing ever that big happened to her but she started to question whether she was as normal and well-adjusted as she thought she was. She spent hours trying to recall her childhood, which until that point she was convinced was a happy one. She tried to remember the one thing that might have fucked her up. Anything that could be considered a “trauma” sure didn’t measure up to other people’s traumas. Her father wasn’t as present as he could have been, but she thought that was a good thing. She thought hard and tried to remember a man that owned a small convenience store in her neighborhood. Her mother often talked about how he was smitten with her as a little girl and gave her whatever she wanted from the store. Maybe he…he could have, she guessed. She couldn’t summon any unpleasant childhood memories and gave up on that notion.
And then she began to question her own mental stability. Maybe something she did that she thought was normal was perceived by someone else as flipping out. It was all subjective after all. She did flip out that one time when she told off a “friend” and sent him to hell. He’d only contact her when he needed something and, if she didn’t provide it, he’d badger her over email. She let this go on for over seven years of knowing the selfish asshole and when she had enough she told him to fuck off. Not in person though. She sent an e-mail and then blocked him from all her social media accounts. It was a first for her and it felt good even though she questioned her rationality after doing it. After that, she told people whom she didn’t like to fuck off quite often. It felt good and she never regretted kicking people out of her life.
The woman then stood up, grabbed her cart, and walked to the Laundromat which was just across the street from the bus stop. I went back home and finished reading the mariticide story. The 70-year old tennis referee was arrested in New York, where she was working as a line judge at the US Open. She tried to explain to the police that “She surmised her husband had fallen down the steps, had a heart attack and managed to get back upstairs to the bed before he died.” As soon as I finished reading the article I realized I had forgotten what freedom felt like.