You know this little feeling you get ? Just that little happy feeling you get from drinking alcohol not enough to make you drunk, but enough for a little rush? Like you’re floating above it all, and everything at the moment feels… perfect?
That’s the little feeling I’ve been getting lately without having to drink. Envious?
Bernadette chérie ,
I remember you so clearly. You came every other Friday to empty out our laundry baskets. You would tie them tightly in large sheets, and you would be on your way. “Kote’w prale ak tout rad sal mwen yo? Kote’w lave yo?” (Where are you going with all of my dirty laundry? Where do you wash it?), I thought. The truth is I really had no idea. I would ask, and I would be vaguely told that you lived very far from us. I wish I had asked you, but you and I never spoke much. I came to find out that it took you approximately two to three hours to get to where we lived.
I always pictured it was somewhere magical because your return, that following sunday, would only mean the cleanest looking and smelling clothes I have ever seen, even to this day. Everything always looked so neatly folded and perfectly ironed. The whites were so white and the colors so bright! Let’s not even mention my school uniforms, so many pleats to iron. Oh, what patience you must have had! I used to watch you with admiration as you start walking with these loads on your head. Every Sunday you were expected, I would wait for you. I would see you from all the way down the street as soon as you turned the corner. I would know it’s you right away. I knew the cadence in your steps as your hips swayed from side to side, each step powerful. Beautiful, strong, little woman. You, and that load of laundry on your head. You must have carried at least thirty pounds on your head! Your poor neck, and back, and legs.
By the time you made it to our front gate, I would be there to welcome your arrival. I’m not sure whether I was welcoming you or my beautifully washed clothes. Either way, I was happy! I remember your smile. A nice and reassuring smile that made the wrinkles near your eyes disappear. I could tell you were tired. I would look at you, then your hands, then your hair, then your manners, and the way you spoke. I don’t remember much about your hair or your voice. The things I will never forget about you until the day I die are your hands, Bernadette.
Those small hands, my family and many others’ washing machine. Each hand contaminated with giant veins, each finger twice the size it should be. Those hands that stripped every peace of dirt and stain off my tarnished pieces of clothing. Those hands who no longer felt soft and feminine, but rather a like a Brillo pad. I remember because I grabbed one once and gently pulled away. Those hands with cracks and blisters all around them. Those fingers, inflated like an air balloon around each nail. Those hands and fingers I took for granted the majority of my childhood. They deserve the world! They deserve to the greatest love and many more riches to soothe them and care for them.
Bernadette, I hope you are doing well. I have not heard from you in nearly a decade, and I wish I knew a way to contact you. Maybe I’ll ask my mom about you the next time we speak. That should be random. Bernadette, whether you believe it or not, you have played a remarkable role in my childhood. One of very few who brought me joy. I certainly wish I had the chance to tell you, but I was too young to realize that.
Right now, I’m guessing your response would be something like this, “Why now? Why, all of a sudden, after 10 years, you decide to think about me? You forgot all about my existence and those hands that served you and your family for your entirely childhood. Now the best you can do is write me a letter (which, by the way, isn’t even a letter but a stupid blog) in a language that I wouldn’t even understand? Don’t you know I probably can’t even read, you idiot?” At least, that’s what my response would be, or something very similar.
This week is laundry week. Notice that I say “week” and not “day”. I have sworn to myself many times before that I will not wait a month or more to do my laundry. Each time, I lie. Each time, I end up with 15 loads of laundry to do. It’s definitely not the same as having someone come take my laundry from my room, and return two days later with neatly arranged shirts, pants, and underwear. I didn’t even have to sort my laundry, life is funny.
I now fill my giant laundry bag, and walk around the corner to the Laundromat. I carry it in my hands as if it were a big fat baby, not over my head like you used to do so graciously. I unload it in the overpriced machines, and pour a superfluous amount of detergent in each. Then, I return and repeat with another bag. I leave for 30 minutes because that’s how long the machines take to wash. 30 minutes! Can you believe it? I’m talking, wash, rinse, and wring loads of clothes in half an hour. Then, I put them in the dryer, 25 cents per 6 minutes. In total, I would pay over 20 dollars for laundry, an amount you would probably make in 2-3 months washing clothes by hand for one family. What an unfair world, I say.