They moved around the Laundromat like hillbillies – not a far stretch for this bit of
South Hackensack tucked
between Garfield and Lodi
where the road changes from River Drive
to Main Street without much
This is that strip mall, just across a bridge and around a bend in the road from my home is a second home, with a Quick Chek to feed me, and a Laundromat to clean my clothes, and car wash when I have my car to wash, and a gas station to fill it up when it runs dry, and a hot dog stand to stuff my face when I’m too broke to eat anything else.
But here, this family barges in on my life with a kid going wild in front of me and me sitting there because I couldn’t thin of anything else to do, father tossing a baseball to another male friend while the mother played cheer leader, and the small, small child perhaps all of two wandering away from them the moment they came in, left arm in a sling, looking into each empty washer as if into the mouth of a lion, slamming each door as hard as possible before moving on, his right thumb dangling like a loose screw at the end of a magnetic screw driver, cling to the rest of the hand by a thin sliver of skin – with me forcing my attention into my book but unable to keep it there, glancing up, cringing with each thrust of door, hating myself for staring, but unable to look at anything else, and finally when writing about it in my book, seeing it so vividly I could have drawn it in my sleep. Finally I got up, walked to check the laundry in a dryer that still have a half hour to go, aware of the child screaming for no reason, and the mother moving towards the change machine ignoring the screams – the child abandoning its sport to tag behind her like a winning puppy, ignored except by the father who paused between catches to yell, “Shut the fuck up or you’ll get something to cry about,” and the winning eased into a whimper, and I decided I needed coffee and left for Quick Chek. When I got back, they were gone.