joan at the paradise island laundromat


At the Paradise Island Laundromat, there is no paradise and no island.

Just as at the Island View Estates trailer park, there is no island, no view, and nothing anywhere near an estate.

But words evoke meanings and places and fantasies in our minds, and so they are used in this way.

Often, we think we are somewhere we’re not.

An old lady with dark, round sunglasses sits behind the counter. She wears her gray hair in a boyish bob.

There’s a notebook and a blue Bic pen taped to the countertop with a white string attached.

The heading in the notebook says “Issues” and below, a few are scrawled.

Change not given, heat broken in dryer number three, rinse cycle malfunctioned, soda machine out of Diet Coke.

The poor drive busted-up Broncos with Lynyrd Skynyrd seat covers, own smartphones, place their lit, half-smoked cigarettes on the curb while they get change or check the dryness factor of their t-shirts.

They come back a few minutes later, pick the cigarette off the curb and keep smoking it. Nothing goes to waste.

Adults in the age of Facebook don’t make friends anymore; they just shout across the chasms of their own political beliefs, listening to the echoes of their own stances.

We’re all just sounding boards for one another. We made our friends in college; why make new ones now?

It’s too much work. We’re all so busy. The ringing is constant. We answer and evade Death.

But we have our causes. We know where the best brie is, the best artisanal espresso. We buy cows for faraway villages.

These are important things. Where to get seat covers made. Organic goatmeat sausage. Salsa.

At night we watch our shows on our plasma walls, silent in the blue light, numb, just wanting to sleep and not even caring if we dream.

Jeans don’t fit. Ass cracks show when we bend over, potbellies when we reach up for something high in the kitchen cabinets.

We cheer and banter and look around and hope someone will be nice to us even though we’re surrounded by good people sitting right here, close enough to kiss.

The woman in the dark glasses behind the counter doesn’t look up. She’s reading something. She can’t help us anyway.

She’s seen too much grief already and can’t do much with ours.

We’ve slouched so far and so low towards Bethlehem that now we’re crawling on the ground.


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