No One's Story
by Alta Ifland
One Monday morning I went to the apartment complex’s laundry room with a basket full of dirty clothes, put them in the machine, turned the machine on, and then realized I wasn’t alone in there, as I had initially thought. No One was there. It was leaning against the vending machine, with a blasé air and a hollow body, moving its papery lips without producing any sound. Its speech was a waterfall of tumbling words that threatened to swallow everything in their vortex, yet I couldn’t hear a single word. What was it saying that was so important but couldn’t make itself heard? The washing machine was also tumbling and gargling, its boisterous noise coiled around No One’s story. I couldn’t tell whether No One’s story was the same one as that of the washing machine but their words were impossible to separate. This is No One’s story as I remember it:
I wish I could tell a tale full of so much detail that I would become entangled in its lateral detours and my heart would split apart like a red melon with small black seeds inside entirely identical to the plastic black seeds I once bought at Wall-Mart in the gardening department guided by a friendly clerk with a lemony smile who was watering the plastic seeds which are now in a wooden bowl in my living room and not inside a red melon which I wish I ate under a neon light with no one in sight.
When No One finished it was dark outside. Mexican housewives were coming and going in and out of the laundry room with baskets full of dirty clothes, as if to a river. The river could not be seen but we could hear its far-away humming, and the grayness of its liquid body slipping over the pebbles hovered above the baskets of clothes. The housewives would empty the baskets into the washing machines, then leave, while other women of the same age and dark complexion would come in, take their clothes from the machines and put them in the dryers, which were also humming, humming and tumbling, while far-away the river kept flowing accompanied by No One’s ceaseless murmur. When one of the women would open one of the washing machines, clothes of gaudy colors would jump out of it, purple, yellow, violet shirts with polka dots, checkered shorts, striped pants and T-shirts with the American flag, and far-away the river would grow darker and darker, while No One’s story flowed alongside the walls, forever filling the now empty washing machines. The darker the river, the brighter the colors.