Dead Flies and Corn Nuts

I poured whiskey to a water bottle in the dark parking lot of an Austin laundromat. Jug to mug. Sands of liquor sifting through an upturned hourglass. I wasn’t gonna drink or soak my socks in hooch. Rather I was en route to camping and needed an easy hitter for my next night under the stars. So I stood at the trunk of my car pouring one container to the next. The bottle went from brown to a clear piece of plastic. Its history held nice nights. I’d drunk it down from an ocean to a lake to this pond I’d soon swallow. I screwed both bottles tight and scanned the lot. A man in his car sat staring at me. He’d seen the transfer. I gathered my laundry and went inside.

The washing machine sat full of dead flies and corn nuts. Fuck it. Suds would wash the bugs. I poured out my bag of socks and shirts, tithed ten quarters, and got to waiting. I liked this laundromat for lots of reasons. It was big with plugins and places to sit. I lived in my car as did others who came here. They were easy to spot with overstuffed cars and toppers hiding a mattress tucked in a truck. The clientele was poor like me. Laundromats leave your life when money enters. This place ran 24/7 and I always came late. At nine or ten it’d still be stirring with single parents and their kids running three machines at once. No one cared that I wore shit clothes and sat unshowered.

The laundromat bathroom locked. I took advantage of this to shave and wash my hair. It beat the nights of propping open a car door in the parking lot I lived in. The nights where I’d wait for no one to be around, stick my head out the door, and wash with Dr. Bronner’s and a bottle of water. Soap in my eyes and a soaked shirt before bed. Here at the laundromat I had privacy — a luxury rarely afforded when you’re homeless. I could shave and shower in peace. I’d scrub my face and feel renewed. Clean clothes. Clean me.

When my clothes finished I planned on driving through the night. I’d arrive to mountains and the Mexican border come sunrise. As I waited I picked my toenails ’til they bled. I carried a bottle of Febreze and shot a blast across my feet. The man who saw me pouring whiskey also witnessed this. Dude looked disgusted. Ah well. Fuck him. My sense of public shame had long since dissipated. I’d been Febrezing my feet for over a decade. In college I never wore socks. I showed up for a date and straight off told her I had a bottle of green Febreze. It was my go to. A quick blast of chemicals to quell the reek. But artificial whiffs of ocean mist don’t fix shit. Despite this the habit stayed and so here I was in Austin Febrezing my bloody feet.

I once pissed myself trying to pee into a bottle as I slept at a rest stop in Montana. I woke with an urge to go but didn’t want to get up. I put my tip to the lip but it sprayed. My undies soaked. I sopped them with a blanket then fell back to bed. I woke with cold piss pants and sprayed them with Febreze. It did little. Fuck it. I was used to living in squalor. But places like the laundromat kept me together. Fresh is better than wet. My clothes finished and I packed them up. The blood on my toes dried and I had toasty socks to cover them. Wool over horse hooves. I started my car and left the lot. I turned out into the dark heart of Texas with my whiskey and fresh feet. Tomorrow I’d sip it down under stars.