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She watched her walk by. Actually she kind of turned by, spinning in circles and looking about herself with a flabbergasted expression. Then she was out of Frida’s field of vision. Frida watched the wind pick up a little and smiled as a few bronze leaves scattered into the road. Frida thrived most when the leaves matched her skin tone.
Another cluster of leaves blurred past the Laundromat’s front window and brought with them the same girl Frida had seen a few seconds ago. She moved and twirled a bit faster this time, pulling her yellow scarf along as she went.
The scarf’s the only graceful thing about her, the poor dear, thought Frida.
One more time, the girl inched into the frame. Her steps slowed and struggled against the grey wind that was slowly blowing heavy clouds into the picture. Her scarf struggled against the wind.
“My god that yellow scarf must be glued to her skinny white neck,” Frida whispered to herself.
Finally, the girl heaved open the door and splattered the Laundromat’s lint canvas with leaves and blinding sunshine yellow.
Frida stood by her usual machine. It consistently tumbled her clothes counter-clockwise and had never failed her, even though the others all turned in a different direction and there was something clearly wrong with the machine.
In the thin cracked mirror, haphazardly hung horizontally above the row of washing machines, Frida watched sunshine yellow scarf girl move from one machine to another. One washer wouldn’t open, another did not accept her money, and yet another tossed her clothing amongst the leaves on the floor with one determined and bewildering jerk. Sunshine yellow girl crossed the narrow room to try the machine to Frida’s left. Much to her amused dismay, the clothing in the girl’s machine began to spin away from Frida and counter-clockwise. Sunshine girl saw her starring and smiled. Frida grunted and mustered a smile she thought was long gone.
Frida leaned back against the counter behind her, almost enthralled by the amount of color spinning towards the left in the machine next to Frida’s. It was nearly as nauseating as the color of festivities and food she encountered when she trudged home every holiday, celebration, or Cinco de Mayo fiesta.
Suddenly, the door thrashed open. At first, Frida thought the wind had picked up even more but the woman that walked in seemed capable of resisting the near hurricane outside. In four strides, the lady cleared a path to the machine on Frida’s right, and tossed her mostly white batch of laundry into the right turning machine. The new woman, wearing a skirt suit and stilettoes that could kill, seemed out of place in the room.
Frida had already received a smile today and thought she would test if she had finally run into the few amicable characters in this ugly town. The prettiest part is that hideous white playground in park next door Frida thought.
“Hello!” Frida exclaimed a bit too eagerly.
Still hunched over the washing machine, the woman answered, “Oh hello. How are you?”
Frida stopped with surprise. Had she finally met someone in this town willing to talk and hold up a conversation?
“Good and you?” Frida stuttered, still speaking with the woman’s backside.
“Oh fantastic!” the lady exhaled, standing up straight to glance at herself in the grimy mirror. “This weather is just horrible isn’t it?” she continued, “I mean I nearly got blown off the road on my way.” The lady continued examining herself in the mirror, “And my hair, dear god. What a hot mess in this chilling weather!” She bent down to retrieve her smartphone from the briefcase by her side.
“It’s not all that bad,” replied Frida, finding herself once again lucky enough to be speaking with the woman’s back.
“Oh isn’t it though? I bet if I resided in some European hotspot there wouldn’t be nearly this much wind,” the lady spun to stare past Sunshine and Frida and through the window. “Like Russia or something. I mean of course there’s snow but maybe there’s no wind,” she spun back towards the mirror to fix her hair again, apparently captivated by the few perfect flyaways escaping from her ponytail.
My god I’ve never met such a talkative white girl before thought Frida. Although she trekked to the Laundromat and back in the same sweatpants every week, she only encountered such talkative strangers on visits to Mexico where her parents were born and raised before they moved and gave birth to her in America.
“Oh and I bet they have big friendly families there,” the lady was still talking, “not like here, where you go about your day, week, year, decade even, content with being that CEO in the family and suddenly your sister, who you haven’t talked to in nearly three years, drops some grimy foster child on your front door. And you know, I tried to be kind and warm up to her, because, well, she’ll be staying with me for a bit, but no, she wouldn’t let me wash that grimy yellow cloth she always plays with,” the lady ranted, “and on top of everything, this girl kicked my washing machine, broke it, and now I’m here,” the lady expelled a long sigh, still enraptured by her smartphone.
Frida didn’t quite know how to respond so she stood in silence. The three women stood starring at their machines for a bit, two left and one right, the silence broken only by the working lady’s scattered sighs.
All at once, they heard a silent whistle. The women looked towards the door, which was cracked open and admitting a slight amount of wind into the Laundromat’s single room.
“Oh there she is now and there’s the cloth I was telling you about!” the lady exclaimed, looking over to the door.
A small blond girl with pale skin and piercing eyes entered the Laundromat dragging a nearly brown scrap behind her. Only a few holes in the mud on the cloth allowed a sunshine color to cut through. One by one, the girl looked into each of the women’s eyes.
“Dear god, won’t you just give me that rag!” the lady tore the cloth out of the girl’s hands and shushed a small squeak that escaped out of the young girl’s mouth. Shaking her head at the girl, the business lady commented, “You see this is what I deal with! I told her to stay at the playground next door.”
The woman opened the door of her washing machine and tossed the scrap in. After the woman pressed the start button once more, the machine jerked and stopped moving.
“S***,” the lady uttered and finally looked up to make eye contact with her.
Frida starred at the lady whose eyes glazed over Frida and starred at Sunshine. Frida then realized with whom the lady was really having a conversation.
“I’m just not having any luck today,” she said to Sunshine.
Then she made eye contact with Frida.
“You know how to fix this right?” the lady asked slowly and deliberately as she peered into Frida’s eyes.
Then she looked back to Sunshine.
“The poor dear probably doesn’t even understand me,” the lady chuckled, “but they always know how to fix these things right?” The lady looked at Sunshine, expecting an answer for the first in the conversation.
Frida, still stunned, glared at Sunshine as well.
Sunshine stuttered, “I, em, English not good. America lovely country.”
The lady widened her eyes upon hearing Sunshine’s heavy, Eastern European accent. For the first time, the lady didn’t know what to say and did not have the hum of her washing machine to replace her words.
This time, Frida spoke as herself.
In her flawless American accents, Frida said, “Here, I can help you. I’ll just put the child’s scarf in with my clothing because its more colorful and you just close the machine and try again.”
Frida stopped her machine and threw in the girl’s cloth. The lady shut her machine, they pressed the start buttons simultaneously, and stepped back in silence to lean against the still grimy counter. The two women watched the washing machines turn in new directions.
Sunshine’s spun left, Frida’s spun right, and the lady’s to the left.
Left right left.
One away and two towards each other.
Left right left.