I came in the laundry room, and there she was taking all of my clothes out of the washing machine that I'd been using.
"Jesus Christ," I said to her. "What are you doing?"
She didn't even look at me but jumped a little bit. "You scared me."
"What are you doing?"
"These clothes have been sitting in the washing machine for longer than a half hour. I have every right to take them out."
"Lady, they've been in the machine for thirty-five minutes," I said. I looked around the room. "Besides, there are four other machines in here."
"This is my favorite machine," she said, tossing pieces of my clothing into a corroded cart. She stopped to examine a few of my wine stained t-shirts, shook her head, and then tossed them too.
"Do you mind?" I said.
"I have my rights." She pointed to a sign posted on the wall. The sign said that other tenants reserve the right to remove clothing out of the washers and dryers should they be in the machines for thirty minutes after their cycle is done.
"But it's only been five extra minutes," I said.
"How do I know that?" she said, tossing the last of my clothing in the cart. She pushed the cart toward me without a thought and then began to load her laundry into my machine. "They could've been here all day."
"It's nine-thirty in the morning," I said.
"Some of us have been up for hours," she said.
"It's been five minutes, lady," I said. "I went to take out the trash with one minute remaining on the machine. And then I came back." I stepped closer to her.
"Don't you come any closer to me!" she said. "I don't know you."
"I live here," I said.
"I don't know that. You could be someone off the street. You could be a rapist."
"Don't flatter yourself," I said.
I started looking through my cart. "You didn't even let these clothes spin."
"What did you say?"
"What are you some kind of washing Nazi? Did you wait until I left, and then just pounce on my machine."
She stopped putting her clothing in the machine. "I'm getting the super. I'm calling the landlord. You can't talk to me that way."
I pushed the corroded cart over to a dryer and began unloading my clothes in it. Then I stopped. "This isn't your favorite dryer, is it?" I ask.
"Keep it up," she said. "You'll be out on the street."
"It's just that I don't want to use this dryer if it's your absolute favorite," I said. "If it has some sentimental value to you."
"You have a smart mouth," she said.
I picked up the rest of my clothing and tossed it into the machine while she continued to bitch at me. I pumped the machine full of quarters and thought about how I was going to leave the clothing in it all day while I sat at the bar and got drunk on two-dollar cans of silver bullet. "Lady, I don't think you could pick smart out of a police line-up."
"You'll be on the street," she repeated. "You'll be out there in the cold with the rest of the bums."
I bowed to her. "And a good day to you too, m'lady."
Then I left the laundry room and began walking down the hall. The super had just put in these new timer lights that were supposed to turn on when it sensed human motion. The lights failed often for me.
"You could've been a rapist!" I heard her shout.
Then I reached the elevator and pushed the button for my floor, wondering what tasks in this world were actually simple, and why I could never find those to do on a rainy Saturday morning with the wine bottle empty and the bars not yet open for the day.
BIO: John Grochalski has been published in numerous print and online journals. He is the author of two books of poetry: The Noose Doesn't Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008) and Glass City (Low Ghost 2010). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.