There were more changes in my life, which proved the journey I was embarking on would be chaotic. I want to say that I was ready for the ride, but that’d be a lie. I was not too fond of the uncertainty of it. Perhaps a bit of monotony was ok. To feel like I was normal. But I wasn’t. Homesickness was driving me crazy for some time.
I ended up having yet another job in Isla Vista, twenty minutes away from where I lived. Isla Vista is an unincorporated community that houses the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and it’s always filled with students, booze, and weed, the perfect combination. I was hired at another restaurant, which was also named Super Cuca’s and belonged to Jenaro and Ambrocio, my two other cousins.
The two brothers had many things in common. They were both in their early thirties, worked out almost every day, and had an unprecedented work ethic. I was only twenty at the time and was hoping to be as successful as they were ten years into the future. But I didn’t think if I was going to be as lucky as they were.
I felt like I let down my cousin Juan, who had advised me to try and keep my bad temper to myself if I didn’t want to have to ride a bus from time to time to work twenty minutes away from where I lived. He said that because of this guy who used to give me rides to work, but since he was a real son of a bitch, bully, and conceited motherfucker, I hated the mention of his name even. I couldn’t bite my tongue. I had to say what I thought—end of the story. My cousin Rodolfo also stopped giving me advice. He knew I was not ready to understand yet.
Among other things, I occasionally wondered if my relationship status was always going to be single. On two occasions, I intentionally sabotaged the opportunity to make out with girls who showed interest in me. I don’t know. Maybe I was afraid to fall in love again, which was understandable, given the fact that my last girlfriend had cheated on me back in Mexico while I was here, trying to live my very own American Dream.
There was this time I came home from work at five in the morning, thinking about doing laundry instead of going to sleep. I was restless while thinking I could come up with something else to do, make up another unnecessary chore that could most definitely wait to be done at a more appropriate time. I walked up the stairs toward the apartment I shared with Agustin, opened the front door, and the creak of the door reminded me of the time and the fact that normal people were sleeping in the morning.
So I tried to be quiet.
The room’s door was ajar. I headed that way. Agustin was sleeping on his bed, hugging Lily with so much fervor you could guess he had a huge boner without having to take a look. I slept in the living room but had to walk into the room and get my white laundry container out of the bathroom. I didn’t have a lot of dirty clothes.
Like I said, unnecessary chores.
I walked out of the room slowly, trying not to wake people up. I put the laundry container next to the couch I used as a bed and then went to the kitchen. I wasn’t that hungry, so I decided to grab a Barritas Marinela from one of the drawers near the stove and a juice box from the fridge. Then I patted my jacket to make sure my Red Marlboros were still in place.
I carried everything downstairs. The laundry room was on the other side of the building. I entered the room, put my things on top of the dryer, and stuffed the laundry machine with all my clothes; I mostly wear black, and the two or three whites I wear underneath were beginning to look gray because I never care to separate them. I put my breakfast on top of the dirty laundry, grabbed a notebook and a pen I had underneath the couch, and took them with me.
I sat on the floor and ate quickly, as if I was afraid someone would come and steal my stupid breakfast. I lit up a Marlboro, focused on the otherwise boring tumbling of the laundry machine, and tried to imagine I was listening to Marriage of Figaro instead. Then, I grabbed my notebook, put the pen against the paper, and let it bleed.
Writing was what my brain wanted to do, after all.
Of course, what I wrote down was depressing. I was as scared and lonely as a Japanese kid who was lost in the middle of a Colombian camp, unable to communicate, talking to these weird-looking people who were looking at him as if he was a specimen that had just dropped from Mars.
That was a stretch because I happened to be luckier than the Japanese kid.
Trying to find an ounce of positivism in this shitty and unlucky life I lived, I tried to think of the books I’d read. However, at that time, I was stupid enough to forget titles and only left room in my mind to remember new words I was never going to use.
What a glorious waste of time.
However, I remember a self-help book that talked about being considerate, respectful, and avoiding judging others based on their religious beliefs and sexual orientations. I tried to follow that advice, I swear to God, but some people ask to be judged based on the weird shit they believe in.
Ok, I guess we all have a certain degree of crazy, don’t we?
The laundry machine stopped right when I was smashing the Marlboro’s butt against the floor like an angry wrestler would smash his opponent’s face. Wow, that’s not a pretty picture. I stood up and made a face, acknowledging the tickling and painful tingle running up and down my legs. “Fuck!” I said. I gave my blood a chance to fill up the space I was unintentionally strangling to death. After that, I put the clothes in the dryer and gave them twenty minutes to dry.
While that happened, I took a brief look out the door. The morning sun was beginning to give the day its light, while cars and pedestrians started to show up on the streets, ready to start living their lives. I blinked. My eyelids felt heavy. I was beginning to feel tired. I wanted to keep writing but had the feeling that whatever I wrote while being tired was not going to look good. I decided to doze off instead.
The twenty minutes in the dryer felt like twenty seconds. I was about to curse time for being such an asshole and making things feel shorter or longer, depending on how generous it felt. “Seriously, why does that happen?”
I took out my clothes, tossed them in the container, and walked back to the apartment. The walk up the stairs was strenuous, but I managed. I opened the door, put the container on the floor, and slumped on the couch. Looking at the white ceiling and the clear morning day out the window, I finally fell asleep.
Photo by KoalaParkLaundromat.