Life: The Laundry, The Lady and The Lies

Eventually when traveling you run out of underwear. What happens next says a lot about you and your circumstances. I sure some can afford to throw them away and simply buy more. I'm sure there are those who must continue to wear them. I had imagined washing them out in hostel sinks. Thankfully, I really never had to do that. Most places we stayed had accommodations and I'd brought more than what I thought would be enough. There were skipped days too. Beach days in bikini bottoms. Days I never left the confines of our hotel room. Sooner or later we both had to come to terms with doing our laundry and it became apart of the travel experience. We'd have to find the facilities or negotiate when to use provided ones. We'd have to figure out how to use the machines since they were all weird and foreign. We'd have to be nice to each other and pool our money and or dirty underthings to make things more efficient. I guess you could say it was about bonding for a mutual cause. Most times we were alone in this process and made due the best we could. If we weren't tagging each other out for use of a washer, we were arguing over drying space to hang things and then we were always trying to figure out what was vital or going into file 13. This last laundry trip was symbolic. We were now down to our last bits having thrown out most everything for the trip home. We didn't care as much about niceties like softener or hanging delicates. It was more about reflection and closure. In this I stayed in the laundromat while she went back to the hotel.

This wasn't some big to do decision. She always seemed to want to hang her stuff up and have more space. She had brought all these silly summer sweaters and jacquard/lace shorts so she needed more drying time. I liked to hang my things because I always do. I personally don't like drying my things to a crisp much like I don't like icy cold drinks or air con blasting in my direction. I guess I'm less conventional but the idea of me hanging my shitty clothes leaving less space for her splendid wardrobe irked her. So when given the opportunity to leave with her wet valuables she ran. She had left quite a bit of things behind so I was wondering about that. Like did she want me to regulate the drying time of those things in the same manner I did mines? Some people wash their dry cleaning, bleach their bras and allow their t-shirts to wrinkle - I don't. However, no matter the issues between us I still cared that her Aerie crap stayed decent and every few minutes I pulled something out that needed tending to. I put her socks in matches and I laid out her other stuff. Sooner or later I had things draped across every chair and table. I'd also taken a walk. I looked at gelato. I wrote some notes in my phone. Then came this woman with a small bag of things much like ours. She was obviously traveling long term too. In this we sparked up a conversation. She was American and nearing the end of her trip. She too was faced with going back to no job and no money. We talked a great deal about that and I made room for her to sit by me.

This lady was in her mid 40s. She'd never been married or had children. She'd worked all her life. She really couldn't afford to travel but she had some family member that lived overseas. That allowed her to come over and do a bit of hoping through other nearby countries. Her concern was that she had been laid off and really couldn't find anything else. It was too early for her to retire and she was afraid no one would hire her. She wasn't the greatest looking either and you could tell life hadn't really been kind to her. But she did have vacations and holidays abroad and no one could take that away from her. I explained that we had both been looking for jobs after leaving the same company for the trip. I told her how I expected to be like her and it was important for me to travel while I could. We talked about the luxury of it and having developed a better perspective. We discussed her coming back and transitioning as she'd done time and time before. She just seemed so weary and concerned about not being able to work. Soon my friend came back and went straight to the dryer which had been neglected since I'd been talking. Inside she realized she'd forgotten one of her stupid sweaters. I showed her that I'd noticed other things and "saved" them but she really wasn't thankful. She was also put off by the presence of the woman who was nice to acknowledge her and invite her into the conversation. 

Now I'd been in this position how many times? I would come back from the restroom and find her engaged in a conversation with people just gabbing on about me. It was never clear or correct information just whatever she could muster up for attention sake. I'd have to answer to the questions of those that thought she was a photographer from D.C. and I was an aspiring French restauranteur. In this I gave her justice. To this fellow American she was the same. She was a single, childless, jobless and desperate woman. We all were. Sadly, she didn't even give the woman a chance. She was already ten steps ahead embellishing herself and even me. The lady just looked at me with open eyes as to say 'I guess this one is ashamed'. I'm sure she was. We were both looking at ourselves in this poor lady with a nylon bag of dirty underthings and a few frocks. She couldn't even realize at least we had each other. We could have been this poor woman working our entire lives, sacrificing everything and then traveling between checks and opportunities and going it alone. She just didn't get it. She was too busy trying to stretch her sweater back out and tell this lady in her weird put-on accent that we we're going to be working in sectors we weren't even interested in. I just smiled. Obviously, she didn't get the symbolism of everything. 

Here we were in Rome of all places. We're standing in an internet cafe/laundromat. Out of all the people in the world in walks someone you can take a cue from. We're all standing over the same table folding panties and balling up socks. We all have no idea what we are going to do. We don't know what were going to eat. We don't know how we'll get home. We don't know where we will live. We don't know how we will survive. We're all American woman with similar backgrounds at different places. The lady is in her 40s. I'm in my 30's. And she's in her 20s. This woman is telling us so many things without saying anything at all. Our clothes are clean. Our conscience is clean. Our slate clean. Now what? I don't want to ever go home. This lady just wants to be considered. And she just wanted me to get her sweater out the dryer and lie to this lady about who she is and wants to be. The same way the sweater and the shorts lied. The same way the whole damn trip was a lie. I promised myself then and there that I would never lie to myself again. I would accept things fully and at face value. I could have been that woman but thank God I'm not. I'm traveling! I have clean underwear! I'm going home but I'll be back!

No comments: