He had spent the day before going through some of the old stuff in the apartment. Wasted a Saturday cleaning out some old back closets and doing a mental triage as to what was to follow. What was to be cast away next. The implements were simple, a forty year old coffee urn and punch bowl still unwashed after some for gotten event of a quarter of a century past. He looked at the date on the crumbled newsprint stating August 29th 1990. He had to wonder what had occasioned the celebration as it was two months past my own wedding ceremony. The one that had fallen flat by the following Fall. It had been a year since his mother’s death and the lifting of responsibilities that neither the state or a local nursing home would have thought to afford. She couldn’t nor could he resist. The legacy of an old condominium stocked and overfilled with odds and ends shelves and closets overflowing took almost the previous twelve months to refine. A lot of junk made the ride down the elevate to oblivion in the dumpsters located in the garage. Boxes of it. The basics remained slowly losing their power to convey the sense of what had once seemed a family unit but had defaulted now a bunch of fading memories and yellowing photographs. Like any reptilian species its outward appearance was insubstantial to convey its vulnerability and an impression was increasingly becoming apparent that all these items would soon lose their sentimental value and be de-possessed. The room would empty and act as an introduction to a number of same in the times to come. If he lived that long there would never be comfort in the illusion of a happy home again.
He got up from the easy chair later that day after putting in some time staring on the mantel piece full of photographs. Uninspired in the efforts and a little bit wobbly not so much from oversleeping but a chronic lethargy. For weeks now, he hadn’t felt himself. It was hard to summon up energy for what had once been the toss off a trivial mundane chore. The laundry lay in lifeless confusion stuffed haphazardly into a white plastic crate supported by equally cheap black casters. An artifact of the past now demanding recognition as once of the last regular instruments that his mother had interaction with. The same old leather strap that had originally started out a stylish existence some several eras back as a belt was roughly knotted around its handle. Its misuse some unconscious form of careless disrespect for an era her soon had enjoyed but she had no use for. The last several years of her life saw a transition of responsibility between them in terms of weekly chores. He had refrained from tugging his own soiled linen in it but pulled along her own to the laundry room at the far end of the hall. Since her passing he had adopted it as his own. He unloaded the crumple of faded rags that composed a significant part of his daily wear and pondered who had first tightly tied the belt on the cart’s end? Who’s idea had it been? Her’s or his father?
He went on extricating the individual garments briefly checking the pockets. His reward for his efforts being two quarters that were promptly inserted in the machine’s pay slot. The coming Monday, these same machines that they had all had grown accustomed to would be replaced by new ones that the quarters would no longer fit in. The three empty slots were duly filled from his own pocket and slammed into the soap filled washer. He looked about the room and wondered how this small trivial space would appear with the new units. He could imagine that the now empty cart leveraging the entrance door open would all too soon be discarded without much of an afterthought. Another heirloom of no great consequence to the history of man that could no longer evoke so many memories of those shared daily routines where he washed and she folded. The absence of all these items in total would leave a void of experience where before there was an ability to convince one’s self by the fact of their sum total that their original owners were simply away in another part of the space for an instant or two. Something to convince one’s self that somehow they still equally existed in fact and not just in evaporating memory,
He took the laundry locker key from his pocket on returning down the long hallway to the apartment’s kitchen and dropping it into the narrow counter top drawer where it had been traditionally kept. A few randomly misplaced double A batteries rolled about deeper within and he felt himself ponder if they were his? The odd ritual of repetitive realization that everything now was at his own discretion, still an afterthought with the power of a brick crashing through a storefront window. The original owners were long gone and, “Oh yes.”, by default their remnants were his. The old Lincoln 4-door sedan and the entire contents of the place was his. All of it, by the standards of the day not amounting to a can of beans was his. He had to keep reminding himself. Was it depression? Or simply an active past of his own heart dying off? Not necessarily a vein or nerve but a small bit of emotion gone into permanent stenosis. At sixty-four years old, he was increasingly sleepwalking through his own existence. Losing touch with old friends and the few that might still be referred to as family living in a city that offered nothing but strangers.
Was he dying! “Maybe?” He had endured bouts of dizziness as of late. The kind of instant prognosis that was too rely offered by so many various self-aggrandizing websites pretending objectivity on the topic. “Ask your doctor”, always ended the message. Out of financial necessity he had started a job some twelve weeks previous that had led to satisfaction of the utilities and rent at the price of an unexpected level of physical fatigue. he found out just how much his abilities had suffered in the interim from his last foray into similar career choices. Was he dying? “Perhaps!” Did he really care? Indifference for his own existence had set in. A sort of lifeless form of melancholy that required no special effort or engagement on his part. No outside sympathy required or obsession needed. The previous chorus and mantra of the unfairness of it all in the manner of their passing, not so much to him but to them. The rage of his own guilt leading reliably to a few tears. All of it bundled up and now washed away. Its absence as significant as the sight of the plastic cart lodged under the towels in the dark at the bottom of the linen closet. Today was just another day reliable only that it would have a greater possibility at affording another of its kind offering no more or less than it already had. That modicum of never ending boredom.
His waistline had incrementally diminished. No doubt that same constant easily prepared diet had taken hold and brought him back from another intolerable added inch around an already pronounced android shape and the necessity to buy garments that flattered none. A certain amount of dyspepsia was contingent with the lack of menu variety. Not necessarily leading up to a need to disgorge the faux impression of unwanted fullness but to maintain the ‘status quo’ of stable. Did he want to die? “No!” Did he care? Not really. Death after all was another part of life. An eventual destination on one’s travels that was unavoidable and now not so unpleasant to contemplate. He had seen so much of it firsthand in the last few years that it seemed to lack its mystery. You were here for your few minutes of same and then, no longer. No one seemed to understand. What was the point if no one took the time to listen to you anymore? What was the point if you continually tried your best but reliably found yourself back where you started at the bottom of the hill? A failure! Failure not in the sense of having followed along studiously in terms of your own sense of right or wrong or what was worth doing. But a failure to attract the attention of others that should by all rights have acknowledged the same. Just another refugee on a raft somewhere upon a Sargasso sea of strangers unmotivated in an ocean of indifference. People whose life product was merely going along to get along and cared little for the niceties involved in those old arts of living of life. The laundry would get done by virtue of the periodic introduction of an ever ‘new‘ and ‘improved‘ type of instrument. One that offered the promise of clean and fresh at the expense of abandoning time tested rituals for new more convoluted procedures. It was after all, another way to stay busy and forget.