I did laundry early this morning, because I saw her truck there.
“Happy Fifth,” Julinda said, as I dragged my bag of dirty clothes through the laundry room doorway.
“Happy Fifth to you too!”
I almost called her, “Julinda,” a made-up merge of Judy (the name she first introduced herself as) and Linda (the name she introduced herself as when we met again for the first time).
“That reminds me of a fight I got into here my first week at the campground,” she said.
I searched in vain for the topic that reminded her of a new topic. I scanned the laundry room. We were the only two in the laundry room. It was going to be a good morning.
“You got into a fight here? In the laundry room,” I asked.
“Yes sir I did! I got in a fight over this dryer.” She patted the top of her dryer as if petting her favorite dog.
“A mean man tried to claim my dryer while it was still empty! ‘That was the one I was planning to use,’ he said,” Julinda spoke in a fake British accent. “He walked just like this,” she said, tilting her head back and prancing around the room like a proud show horse.
(Ah! July fifth is the day after July Fourth, which is the anniversary of when we told the British to stick it. I’m tracking, Julinda! Please continue, my dear.)
“I said puh-lease! Mister, you better gut me like a fish, because I’m not letting go of this dryer door! My husband said, ‘You hush talking like that!’ I said no you hush! I told that man you can kill me and get my dryer, but you’ll be in a heap of trouble before your prissy little clothes get dry, let me tell you that!”
I tapped madly on my iPad screen, taking notes and wondering why I never remember to just hit ”record” on a voice recorder app and let it do the work.
“My husband doesn’t like it when I stand up for myself, “she continued, “but I say you better stand up for yourself, especially today. Seems like everybody’s gone crazy.”
Julinda walked up almost nose-to-nose to me before finishing her thought about crazy people. “There are pure unadulterated crazy people out there, do you know that?”
”I do,” I said, blanking my iPad screen so she wouldn’t read her own words.
“How will we know?”
“How will we know what,” I questioned her question with a question. She leaned in closer.
“When we go crazy, how will we know,” she whispered.
“Well…” I couldn’t verbalize beyond that. Julinda had included me as part of her “we”. I felt equal parts disturbed and flattered.
“I may be crazy now and not realize it,” she added, throwing up her arms and letting her hands slap against her hips and walking back to her pile of clothes.
“The fact that you are asking the question probably means you’re not,” I said.
“Wow that’s good. Crazy doesn’t recognize itself.” Julinda repeated my answer, only more eloquently. Then she offered what I think was meant to be evidence that she wasn’t crazy.
“One time a stranger came to my house and I let him in. He said he wanted to see my back deck. My husband was gone. I let the man in, but I made sure my neighbor was around to hear me scream – I mean if it came to that. I don’t think it did.”
Julinda stopped talking. Just as I began to get comfortable with verbal silence and the rhythm of spinning washers and tumbling dryers, Julinda unleashed an eardrum-piercing, glass-shattering two-word scream.
Julinda startled the crap out of me. Not literally, but so close to literally that I’d rather not say, although sadly, I just did. I’m not frightened of the city in North Carolina, but the way she screamed the name makes me want to bypass it from now on.
“What was that,” I said in a trembling voice, my knees shaking as I struggled to maintain control over bowels and bladder.
“That’s where we’re retiring,” she said. “Two years ago, we bought an old house and we’ve been fixing it up, little by little. The windows were so old that you could stand in front of one and feel the outside coming in. I don’t mean from around the edges either. I mean through the window. Life was seeping through. And that works both ways,” she said, staring into the parking lot, or someplace well beyond.
Julinda can go from the mundane to the profound with the pivot of a point guard in a pro basketball game.
“I remember my first house. It wasn’t mine at first, but it became mine. It belonged to my husband’s first ex-wife, but we all know what happened to her, may she rest – anyway, my first house was small. Really small.”
(Am I the only one who believes that Julinda almost admitted to murder?)
“It was so easy to clean. Just one swipe and that place was spotless. No scrubbing no rubbing, just swipe and grin.”
(Really? I’m the only one?)
“What’s that called,” she asked. “We had a lot of it in that house.”
“What’s what called? Bleach?”
“No! You know. When you look up and see space? What’s that called?”
“The sky? The stars? The Milky Way? The universe? Andromeda? Ursa Minor?”
“No no no! Hush. Storage! That’s it. We had a lot of storage over our heads. If you look up you can still see it,” she said, looking at the ceiling with a grin.
“Oh! Yes. Storage. Of course. Over our heads storage.”
Yes I looked up too, just as she did.
“See. We’ve all got a lot of storage over our heads. Never forget that.”
“Anyway, we spent so much money and time fixing up that old house,” she continued her story. “He’s ready to retire and he’s tired. Been working since he was seven. Or maybe eleven. I say keep chugging along, because if you stop, you’re almost dead, and almost dead is as good as dead.”
“Plus, three little sparks is all it would take. I mean it’s 100-year-old wood. We’ve got good insurance. Do the math. My husband wants me to stop talking like that and act like I’ve got some sense. Sometimes I do.“
(Sometimes you have it, or sometimes you act like you have it? So many questions; so little blog.)
With that, she gathered up her folded clothes and tucked the heavy plastic basket under one arm.
“You can use this one. It’s already warm,” Julinda said, offering her dryer without a fight.
“Thank you,” I said. I filled the dryer, fed the quarter-eating beast, and pressed the start button.
“Well, time is money. I’ll see you in a buck forty-five,” Julinda said, waving with her free hand. She walked to her truck not looking back.
“See you in a buck forty-five,” I said.
Yes, I looked at my iPad to see what time that was, just like a crazy person.
Julinda, I would vote for you for public office, regardless of the party you represented.