She caught my attention hobbling around the laundry room
, leaving her cane this place or that, using the laundry cart for balance from time to time. Every once in a while she paused to sigh, a loud long sigh full of "ask me how my day is going". She was an old woman, her hair dyed black with the signs of age peppered throughout her roots. Every once in a while she sucked in her lower lip chewing on it like a piece of gum. She had lonely brown eyes that begged for conversation. I felt compelled to speak to her. I wanted, no, I needed to ease her loneliness
I haven't seen you here before. Are you visiting?
That was all the invitation she needed. Her eyes lit up as she started telling me about her stay. She had a southern accent, though I couldn't place exactly where in the southeast it was from. Her husband was a line worker close to retirement age.
He jest has to make it 'til August, that's all, jest 'til August. That's why I came out here. We've been apart ten months which is hard on a couple. No relationship is easy through that.
I nodded in agreement. She settled down in a white paint chipped metal chair absconded from the pool area, then stretched her leg onto the laundry cart.
But he fell a ways back, broke his neck. It left his hand with some kind of neurological thing. When I forgit an try to hold his hand, he grabs it back 'cause it hurts. He's a grumpy old man now.
I found it sad she couldn't hold his hand. I made a "go on" sound in my throat.(mm hmm) I was mesmerized by her wavering voice. It wasn't Tennessee, I'd been there twice. It wasn't that same twang. Nor did she have the drawl of a Georgian. Where was she from? What place shaped her?
I've a house in the country with horses. My daughter takes care of them an the goats while I'm here. I have to go back soon. My lockjaw is actin up an I need my own doctor. He'll fix me up good. I can't eat meat now. I can't chew it. They took out all my teeth on account of sinuses. They were real bad a ways back. No problems now, but I can't eat meat, not even the chicken in chicken noodle soup. I miss chicken. I keep chewin and chewin but I don't have the teeth no more.
She kept flying off on tangents like she was afraid that an empty space in the air would leave me room to walk away.
My daughter borrowed my truck but she ran into these three horses on the back road. They weren't in their pen. The owner begged her not to call the cops but she had to. It was my truck that was totalled. Two of his horses died. The other one ought to have been put down. He got no INsurance, that's why he wanted no cops, but my daughter, she had to. Now she has no car and I'll need to pay for a cab when I go back to my house.(more sighing) The air here is bad for my allergies.
I started folding my clothes slowly on the counter as opposed to shoving them in the bag to fold back at the trailer as I normally do. "Cops" sounded foreign on her lips. It didn't match. I wanted to hear her voice more. Where was it from? It was vaguely comforting. She was smiling a toothless smile at me.
I got no allergies at home, only here in this dirty air. Can you believe my husband didn't wash his sheets for TEN months?
I assured her of my disbelief. She shuffles over to one of the dryers.
This one's sweaty, takin too long to dry.
That one is bad for jeans and towels. Use this one instead, it works the best. When had I learned the nuances of the dryers here?
Where you from, Connecticut did you say? I lived there once, long time ago, in that town that's next to New Jersey.(?? CT borders New York) I list off some towns in the southwestern corner of the state. Oh, I forget the name, moved to New Jersey for a while. Wisconsin after that. They had huge poles attached to fire hydrants in Wisconsin. Know what for? SNOW! That's right. So they could find the fire hydrants in the snow! It snowed a week straight right before halloween. Well, we moved out of there fast! I don't like too much snow.
My clothes were folded and I stood there holding my bag over my shoulder still listening and thinking a little wistfully about snow.
That's when we moved to Louisiana. My daughter has huge power bills. Wages are low there. I told them to get propane to cook, fill once every three years. I pay her to watch my house. She needs the money an won't take it from me otherwise. I love my house. I got a good washer, one of those fancy ones that can wash 18 king size sheets! Not like this place. Oh, you're done? I'm almost done. I'll remember not to use that dryer next time. Good talkin to you. Thanks for listenin to an old woman.
She smiled again as she dismissed me. I filed away her voice for future reference, Louisiana, with a touch of elsewhere. She was humming to herself by the time I stepped out of the door. I smiled as I recognized the strains of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah escaping the laundry room. I wonder if she knew how she lifted my own loneliness a bit as well. She probably did.