march 1K

march 1K

She was thirty-six and considered herself successful. Though the word “unremarkable” always came to mind when she looked in the mirror, she knew what she’d been through to get to where she was today.

Mom had been angry. Even hit her once or twice.

Dad left. Coward.

She left too. At sixteen. Old enough to feel invincible and self-sufficient. Too young to know she was wrong.

Then again, she was here at her desk on the sixteenth floor of a 72-story building that stood as tall as the other monoliths stepping across the skyline. A professional. Working hard at working hard. Successful at becoming successful…

“Kelsey, did you get ‘Figure 5’ for the June article on untreated diabetics?” She didn’t turn. She knew it was Brad. And she wanted to look busy because she had plans to cut out early. She had somewhere to go. Same place she’d gone this day, every year, for twenty years, and he was now standing in her way.

Brad tapped his long, weird fingernails on the file folder in his hands. It reminded her of a guitarist she knew when she was homeless, but Brad wasn’t homeless, nor, she was fairly confident, was he a guitarist. “Yes…” she said, clicking her mouse. “The gangrenous foot.” The image expanded over her monitor, and she felt Brad take a step back from her chair.

“Okay okay close it,” he said. “I swear, working for a medical journal isn’t worth the money. Email it to me? I’m supposed to write a caption.”

“Lucky you,” she said. “Is there anything else? Because I’m leaving early today.”

“Where you going?”

“I have an appointment.” She still didn’t turn, hoping he’d leave.

“You’re not pregnant are you?” he laughed.

“I could get you fired for saying that.”

He took another step back. “I swear, you can be so uptight. I didn’t mean to intrude I was just…”

Mom could snap over the littlest things. Toast fell butter-down on the floor. Snap.

Dad Kissed Kelsey goodbye one morning before work and never came home.

Brad still talked. “Are you even listening to me?”

“Do what you have to do,” she said, “But this article isn’t going to lay itself out.”

Brad released a burst of compressed air and shuffled off. A bit of him still rested on the top of her head where his breath had moved some of her hair.

*

When you’re sixteen and homeless in a town that gets bitter cold, it’s hard to find a place to warm your hands and feet without having to buy something or absorb sideways glances. So she made herself at home in a laundromat. It’s always warm. Open 24 hours. Everyone there is washing the good clothes and wearing the bottom of the drawer, so she kind of fit in. The laundromat kept her alive. She made friends. Mooched snacks. Escaped creeps. Washed clothes. Even washed herself in the big sink on slow nights.

It’s where she made the decision to get her high school diploma and go to college. And every year after that, on the same day, she visited to remind herself how far she’d come.

Mom yelled a lot. Hit her even.

Dad was…

The doorbell sounded, as she stepped into the laundromat, and no one looked up from the books, magazines, or clothes. She crossed the open space and sat at the wobbly round table where she first read To Kill a Mockingbird. This was her equivalent to other people’s annual homecomings. Hers just happened to smell like fabric softener and dryer sheets – to sound like 50 motors drumming to the undercurrent of buzzing fluorescents.

It smelled and sounded like home.

This home’s family never seemed to change. The old lady with large-framed glasses who seemed too frail to carry even two loads of laundry. The middle-aged man who paced the floor until his loads were finished, as if this chore was a big waste of time. The mom with four kids who washed and folded eight loads and never looked tired behind the skyline of whites, darks, colors and denims. She always smiled.

Her mom had so much hatred. Dad…

For twenty years, Kelsey came back to imagine her teenage self walking in, half-starved, half-frozen.

But this year was it. She stood up, and the table wobbled. She didn’t belong. She was out of place, like the middle-aged man pacing the floor. She was in her business suit – not the bottom of her dresser drawer. Just like the decisive day that created this anniversary, this would be the day she erased it.

Mom was dead.

And Dad washed away. Like the sacks and baskets of clothes that walk in dirty and walk out clean, she too would leave washed, spun, dried, and evergreen fresh.

The doorbell sounded behind her as she stepped onto the sidewalk and took in the city. The building’s edges were more defined. The cars driving past were like toys, as if she could reach out and pick one up and shake the passengers out into the palm of her hand to explain to them her new world. She wanted to see her transformation in action.

*

She stood over Brad’s shoulder – Brad with the long fingernails he liked to tap.

“Hey, Brad,” she said and smiled. He smiled back. He was an unremarkable looking guy, and that was perfectly okay. “I sent that figure, but you don’t have to look at it. I talked to Leanne, who said it doesn’t need a caption. Just ‘Figure 5.’”

“Thanks,” he said, a little surprised. She liked that. She wanted to surprise people from now on.

“Brad, I’m sorry I can be uptight sometimes.”

“That’s okay…”

“No really,” she said, and the next words got stuck in her throat for a second. She’d never said them out loud. She wanted to explain the laundromat…

“No really,” Brad reinforced, “I swear it’s okay.” He meant it.

“I’ve always wondered,” she started. “Do you play the guitar?”

17 Responses to “march 1K”


  1. 1 donna 03/10/2009 at 8:34 am

    i love the huffmans.

  2. 3 ELizabeth 03/10/2009 at 9:05 am

    i have been waiting for this!

    i love your writing . . .

    i’ll read this a few more times while i’m waiting for april . . .

  3. 4 billy 03/10/2009 at 12:08 pm

    Just right the right amount of awesome.

  4. 6 beth 03/10/2009 at 3:29 pm

    dang. you two. so good.

  5. 7 Brian 03/10/2009 at 3:58 pm

    good stuff, once again – thanks!

  6. 9 julia 03/10/2009 at 5:19 pm

    yeah. this is damn good. i want it to keep going. but i love that it doesn’t.

  7. 12 Ana 03/11/2009 at 2:11 pm

    FABULOSO! Really great stuff.

  8. 14 mike 03/12/2009 at 8:10 pm

    excellent. again.

  9. 15 tifanie 03/16/2009 at 12:38 pm

    nice. vivid. very creative.

  10. 16 Cari 03/20/2009 at 9:40 am

    I’d like to offer my proofreading services for when this project becomes a book. Yep.

  11. 17 Stephanie 03/22/2009 at 7:26 pm

    Oh Huffmans, how you make me swoon…


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