i did laundry again today. i threw my load in the washer and went to get a soda pop from the vending machine. a man next to the machine said "how were your holidays?" he said it in english. typically, spanish is the only language spoken in my laundromat. except for the weird days when the asian couple is on duty. jose, the regular guy on duty, speaks a little english, but other than that, all the patrons speak spanish, the radio sings in spanish, and the tv talks about soccer in spanish. sometimes the tv talks about game shows in spanish. and it takes breaks every now and then to try and convince me to buy mcdonald's hamburgers, also in spanish.
so when i heard this man ask me "how were your holidays," i figured he was a friendly patron, looking for a short conversation, eager to show off his handle on the english language. i obliged and told him the holidays were great, asked how his were. he sighed and began a story about seeing a car with Texas plates parked in front of his mother's trailer on christmas day. i quickly realized this wasn't a friendly laundromat patron but a wandering drunk, looking for someone, anyone, to tell stories to. i have no problem with that. as an amateur/part-time wandering drunk, i sort of felt a kinship with him. so i listened as my new friend told me about how he pulled a knife on the stranger who answered the door of his mother's trailer on christmas day. "who the fuck are you, motherfucker, you want to go? let's go!" and so on and so forth as the stranger tried to convince my new friend that they were brothers. the mother broke up the fight and vouched for the stranger. he was my new friend's brother. my new friend demanded the stranger laugh. "my brother used to laugh just like woody woodpecker" my new friend explained. and so the stranger laughed and they knew they were brothers.
i listened to a lot of stories and i learned a lot about my new friend. i learned about his wife and their sex life. i learned about his daughter and step-daughter. i learned that my friend is not mexican, but apache indian. i learned that when you're an apache, it's important to be tough. he told me, "that's why i get in so many fights. i don't blink." he demonstrated and we stared at each other with out blinking. he said "guys look at me and tell me to blink and i say 'i'm an indian. you blink first.'" we were still staring at each other and hadn't blinked in thirty seconds or so. i couldn't tell if he was just telling a story of he was challenging me and waiting for me to blink. so i gave him an exaggerated blink and laughed. he didn't laugh back.
he told me he had a steel plate in his chin and he knocked loudly on it to prove it to me. "how'd you get that?" i asked. "i fell out of a two-story window!" he answered as if i had not been paying attention. he showed me a scar on his cheek that he got when someone stabbed him with a beer bottle. his front tooth was broken in half from another fight.
he had just gotten out of the hospital this morning. he showed me his wristband to prove it. "why were you in the hospital?" he told me his daughter's boyfriend had kicked him "down there" and it gave him a hernia but he asked the doctor if he could still perform like a man and the doctor said he could but it's important that he's careful and that he massages the hernia beforehand.
then he told me more about his chubby wife and more about how they enjoy sexing each other. he is very skinny and she is pretty fat and one time they were sexing and she was on top. their daughter picked the lock of their bedroom with a butter knife. "where's my dad?" she asked because she couldn't see him under the chubby wife. he squeezed his hand out from under the chubby wife and waved, "i'm down here."
he watched me as i chuckled and sipped my soda pop. i was racking my brain for ways to get out of the conversation. i couldn't come up with anything. i had nothing to do but wait for my laundry to finish. i looked back at him to find him watching me. he looked sad that i didn't have any dirty stories to share with him, to top the stories about his chubby wife.
"come out here," my apache friend demanded of me. i followed him to the doorway. he pointed to an RV parked outside and told me that one time, the man who lived in the RV came around and "was taking shit." he was saying crude things to my apache friend's chubby wife. so my apache friend grabbed a broom and hit the man with it several times. the guys from the boxing club above the laundromat had my apache friend's back, "because i clean up and sweep around there and stuff for them sometimes for extra money," he explained to me.
then he told me more about his wife. he told me she was chubby. he told me she was on top of him in bed and their daughter walked in and couldn't see him. he told me his daughter's boyfriend had kicked him in the balls and given him a hernia. he told me he got out of the hospital this morning.
i was trapped in a loop of his damaged brain. whether it was the booze, or the two-story fall, or the beer bottle to the head, or the kick to the gonads, i'll never know. but i couldn't stand the thought of listening to those stories another three or four times before my clothes were done drying. i had done my part. i had given him an audience for something like twenty minutes or thereabouts.
so, i told him i had to go check on my clothes. he said, "yeah, i'm gonna get another drink." i think that was his way of saying, "we'll meet back here once we've completed our respective tasks." but i grabbed a seat and buried my face in a book. when he came back in, i refused to look up from the book. i saw his feet shuffle past me and i sensed his disappointment. i heard him say to some other patron, "how were your holidays?" and the guy didn't respond. i felt bad for my apache friend. i still feel bad.