By Quinn Rosefsky
When he asked her why, she thought for a moment and said that there really was no one else in the whole world with whom she could be so open. She spoke with an accent, most likely Eastern European. In her thirties, attractive, with hazel eyes, and fine features, she wore rumpled blue jeans, a man’s partially buttoned shirt, not tucked in, and had carelessly tied her dark hair in a bun. A faint lilac fragrance moved with her as she paced from one washer to the next, peering briefly into the glass front of each one as if expecting to find a forgotten treasure, a hidden message. Kanyeshna, she said–more than once. She looked at him again, straightened the loose hairs in her bun, then sighed, and continued pacing.
A few minutes earlier, unshaven, his light brown hair unkempt, he had put on loafers, khaki shorts, and a Red Sox T-shirt, determined finally, after so many excuses he’d made to himself, to get his laundry done. His old girlfriend had done it for him before she left for good, and now, she had been gone for a month. Hugging the large bundle, he had walked the two blocks from his studio apartment, past the pharmacy, the ice cream parlor, the barber shop, and the pawn shop until he reached the 24-hour laundromat. Except for the laundromat, the shops were closed, empty, the streets jammed with cars belonging to locals. Not a single jogger. No one walking a dog. He hadn’t really expected to meet anyone, not this early, not on a Sunday.
The two were the only ones doing their laundry. He checked his change. He needed a few more quarters to put in the washing machine and asked the woman if she had change for a dollar. She looked at him as if not quite understanding what he wanted, then asked him to marry her. Perhaps “Why” wasn’t the right question to have asked.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Shto za vapros!” she replied. “What question is that?”
“Well, we’ve never met. I asked if you could make change for a dollar, and you asked me to marry you.”
“Oh, did I? I get words mixed up. I am telling you I travel a lot ,and I pick up many words. I look in book for phrases to explain. I am having used one of those phrases with you. There are so many. I am being so confused. I am wishing to ask you if you can help me. I am having difficulty with these washing machines. I worry I am not used to the way these machines work.”
She smiled broadly, tilted her head, and looked at him as if she were inspecting a used car.
“You mean you’re not from around here?”
“Of course not, you silly man.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“How you mean by that?”