I’m outside at 10 am on one of those sickly hot, late summer days. The humidity is so high that the air could easily pass as as a pot of water, climbing to a boil, through which I move with deliberation. I hold a basket of laundry that I’m sure will succumb to mold before it dries, but I am craving the rhythm of hanging.
“I’ll face the burned out basement dryer in a few hours,” I say to the carpenter bees and the well hidden bats.
I haven’t slept in nearly a week, now. The pressure of this latest assignment keeps me glued to my computer screen almost constantly, always watching, fresh strategies forming and shifting as I try to coax someone else’s system to do my bidding. Needing, somewhat desperately, to keep it, or the human source behind it, from hurting people. In my mind’s eye, this dangerous combination of humanity and technology is a misguided monster and I am looking for its heart. Seeking that carefully buried soft spot to tap into and fortify. The door through which I can reach that angry drooling face with the hate and greed filled stare and convince it that deep down, it is just an awkward creature harboring a goofy grin and kind eyes.
I wonder if I’m beginning to hallucinate.
This moment is grounding. Real. A white plastic basket with dusty blue handles, filled with heavy damp fabric pulling me back to earth, cutting into my hands as I place it on the balcony. I pull out a heathered orange t-shirt and shake it into shape, lining up the bottom edge and flipping the wet cotton over the gray stained, nylon cord. It’s sturdy, long enough to hold a large load, and built with bright red pulleys, working horizontally, that make it easy to hang while standing in my small rectangular space. I can send my air deprived clothing out over the alley with just a few tugs. To breathe.
It is a gift from my father. That sweet, quiet man who had to brave the building across the street and track down the tenants who, for now, inhabit a modest, one bedroom space, an unimpressive stretch of air and glass from mine. He had to enter the home of strangers and dangle from their bedroom window with nothing more than a story and his own special charm to guide the transaction. He isn’t one for words, but such acts of love ring true.
The air stinks in summer, but this clothesline in the city is a luxury for me, and cherished.
The pale tinged, orange plastic pin that could snap at any moment catches my eye in its sea of faded wooden brothers, as it always does. The lone survivor from the 1980’s set that my mother passed to me when I moved into my first apartment all those years ago. I still remember her out at our line in a brightly hued terrycloth sun suit, white piping gleaming, and huge sunglasses with heavy tinting on the top of each lens fading to a strange pale yellow at the bottom, hanging clothes with those thinly crafted multi-colored pins, destined for rusty springs and brittle fate, a smile on her face as she pushed to her toes and caught my eye. Her line was strung between two poles embedded in concrete. I loved climbing those poles – the sense of accomplishment at reaching the top of the T and dangling there, feeling my spine stretch and open, except for the time I fell and sliced open the skin of my shin on the corner of the patio.
That scar lasted for twenty years, at least.
I always save the orange one for last. Peculiar, maybe, to be so sentimental about a clothespin, but it’s one of those rare physical connections to my history, one that will someday break like all of the others, and so I savor its existence before I clamp it to a far more fleeting object. I linger as I do, furtively, on another time and place, so much simpler than now, knowing that it will not last forever.