Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Unexpected

On November 30th I planned to go to mass at 12pm. I didn't want my day to pass without recognizing that three years ago my dad passed away. I thought attending a Catholic service would be a good way of honoring him. Life got in the way of my plan.

My washing machine broke the week before. I had been ignoring the piles of laundry that had accumulated in our closets. A part to fix it, a small black hose, was supposed to be delivered by the end of the week. I was going to wait it out and deal with the laundry when the part arrived. However, the kids rooms, especially Jake's, started to smell like stinky boy B.O. My mom was flying in that night from Chicago to celebrate Jake's birthday. I felt like I had to do laundry or else mom would think I was a slob. I figured if I went early enough to the Laundromat I would still have time for mass. I was wrong but I think my excuse for missing it was valid.

I trekked up to superlaundry in La Mesa. I had three full baskets to do. After dumping them in the machines and feeding my quarters in the dispenser I heard persistent barking from outside. I peered out and saw two men with tattoos holding German shepherds. I was confused. Were the dogs fighting? Had there been a dog attack on the sidewalk in front of the Laundromat? What was going on?

That's when I saw the guns. The men with the dogs were cops. Nearby there were five, maybe six, police officers with their weapons pulled. It seemed pretend. Maybe there were camera crews and a TV show was being filmed. The weapons looked like my boys B.B guns. I couldn't imagine they had capability of blowing heads off.

A woman stood next to me holding a dirty pillow case to her chest as she watched the scene outside. The young twenty-something employee of the Laundromat stopped what he was doing. We all instinctively walked towards the window to get a closer look.

"Look at the parking lot!" the Laundromat worker said. "It's crawling with cops!"

Outside, which seemed so quiet a minute ago, was lined with police cars and undercover cops. Men in bullet proof vests and others in suits and ties stood, looking very official, outside.

"Where did they all come from?" the woman asked

An officer was taping off the area with that yellow crime scene tape. We were inside the tape.

A man with a mustache and a tie came inside

"Get away from the windows" he yelled.

The three of us stepped back. The Laundromat worker jumped on top of one of the bigger machines to get a bird’s eye view. The woman with the pillow case stood next to me. She nervously grabbed onto my wrist.

Meanwhile the laundry employee was taking pictures with his iPhone. He started giving us a play by play:

"The guns are pointed at a parked car. There are two guys in the car. Wait, no, one of them is a woman. They're just sitting there. They're not getting out. Wait... there are kids in the car too, three of them, I see a baby."

The suit and tie officer comes in again, "Stay in here," he warns, "Don't leave."

After some time the two people get out of their car. The officers put their guns down. The two are handcuffed.

"Geez--look at him," the woman whose hand is still on my wrist says, "He even looks like a criminal! Will you look at those pants! Those are the kind of pants criminals always wear."

His jeans were baggy and their waist low. I want to say something condescending to the woman but I don't.

We watch as police officers remove the children from the car. A cop picks up an infant carrier with a baby inside.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" he asks the officer next to him. Shrug. He places the infant in its seat down on the sidewalk. The two other kids are escorted inside the Laundromat where there is a plastic play structure.

"Is it okay for them to be here?" the officer asks the employee.

"Sure." he says

The boys are left unsupervised to run wild in the Laundromat. My first instinct is to hug them. I expect them to be terrified or crying but they aren't. They run towards the plastic play structure. The oldest one is laughing. The little one follows him.

"Let's play!" he tells the other one. “Climb up the slide!"

"I guess they're used to this kind of thing." The wrist grabber says to me while making a sour looking face at the boys.

I'm annoyed by her. I ask the boys if they would like to pick out something from the vending machine. They do. They run over to me.

The boys pick out mini Oreos. They do not say thank you. They ask me for more money. I expect them to be thanking me while at the same time crying. My expectations are ridiculous I realize. I am being silly. Kids are kids, they just want to play and eat snacks and look for the good in a terrible situation. They appear completely unphased that their parents just had guns pulled on them.

A pillow explodes in a nearby drier, the wrist grabber opens up the door and fluffy white feathers shoot up into the air. It looks beautiful. It makes everything seem even more surreal, the guns,the kids, the feathers, the police, all of it seems like a dream. Mozart should be playing. Is this my father's way of saying hello, I wondered?

I place two quarters in a video game machine. I play it with one of the little boys who tells me he is ten. When I say "really!" in disbelief, he says, "Okay, I am 8." I'm still not buying it. "Okay I'm really seven." he admits.

"Were those your parents in the car?" I ask.

He shrugs. I don't know if that means yes or no.

"Are you okay," I ask. "Are you scared?" He doesn't answer.

A police officer outside has finally picked up the baby from its infant seat out on the sidewalk. He walks into the Laundromat.

"Is this your sister? Where is her diaper bag?" He addresses the seven year old.

"We don't have one," the boy says.

"Well how are we supposed to change her diaper? Don't you think you should have a diaper bag for her." his tone is gruff.

The little boy looks down.

The officer walks out with the baby. I want to take the infant from him. I want to take all three kids to my house and make them lunch and let them sleep in Jake's bunk beds.

Soon the parking lot that was once thick with law enforcement is empty. the yellow crime tape is gone. As quickly as the cops appeared they have disappeared. But the kids are still there. My laundry is finished. I can't bring myself to leave.

"Is someone coming for them?" I ask the guy that works there. The Laundromat guy points outside. There is a car parked where the other car with the criminals had been.

"That lady in the car is with them." he says

I wait until she comes in before I get ready to leave.

While standing in the laudromat doorway, she asks the younger boy who might be four, "Why are you playing video games!?"

He is holding two quarter in his tiny fist. He points to me. She grabs the change from his hand.

"Get out to the car now!" she shrieks at the boys. They follow her outside and get in the car.

I go back to my laundry. I neatly place my clothes in their baskets. Before walking out I see a man on the other side of the Laundromat. He is with a skinny older woman that has bleach blonde hair. She is tan and wrinkly. A red scrunchy is holding up her stringy hair in a thick ponytail.

The man has a scar running the length of his skull. It starts on the left side under his earlobe and runs up his scalp. He is bald. I stare at him. He stares back. It looks like the scar my dad had after his first surgery. I suddenly picture my dad in the pink chair in the living room of my childhood house. It's right after he has come home from the hospital after having surgery to remove his tumor. He is watching wheel of fortune. His face is puffy and his scar is still new to me. I hate looking at it. It makes me angry. It makes me wish that I had the scar instead of him. I'm nineteen and convinced that I am terrible person deserving of brain tumors. I wish my dad would wear a hat. I am ashamed that I feel that way.

My eyes are glued on the bald man in the Laundromat. Where did he come from, I wonder? Was the man with the scar in the Laundromat the entire time? Was he there during the guns and the arrest? Again I feel like I am dreaming. The leathery lady with him looks at me. She looks tired. She is used to him being gawked at. I wonder if she wishes he would wear a hat. I have an urge to sit with them and help them fold their laundry. Instead, I leave.

I walk past the car with the kids whose parents have just been arrested. The woman in charge of them is on her cell phone. She looks haggard. I wave at the boys. They wave back

When I get to my car I can't help wonder if all of the strange situations in the Laundromat meant something and if so what? Was I supposed to learn something? Was my dad talking to me in some odd symbolic language or was I just looking for it to mean something? Was the man with the scar an odd coincidence?

I drove home without going to mass because it was already 1:13pm. Once again November 30th wasn't what I expected but it was much like years past where I had expected it to go one way but instead turned out so completely different and oddly perfect. In the end I think I did honor my dad.


Nicole said...

What!? How is it that you are always involved in crazy situations?

Siobhan said...

I have no idea. bad Karma?