Quarters sometimes feel like they were wedged between old movie theater seats– rusted, dirty, and smelling vaguely like a darkening room. Maybe it was because I was a cashier for a department store, but I always preferred the freshly unrolled quarters, still gleaming with whatever polish they put on them. The sound when they hit the register is autumn rain on a bedroom window.
Unfortunately, all I have are the first kind, produced from nearly an hour of searching the seats of my used Sedan. Still, my uniform hadn’t been washed in nearly two weeks and was beginning to smell, and I was stuck wearing a t-shirt from my high school production of Beauty and the Beast and a pair of jeans that my brother had outgrown. So, I guess laundry was a priority. I was too busy to make the three-hour drive back to my parents house, so this is it.
Super Wash wasn’t necessarily the cleanest, nor was it particularly appealing in any way, but it was a ten-minute walk from my dorm and open all night. I dumped my clothes in a washer that looked relatively clean and started the cycle. There was a row of seats across from the tumbling dryers in the back, so I took my bag and headed there, crossing my legs as I began to work on my past-due assignments.
“Nice night, isn’t it?” I didn’t think the man was talking to me until he sat down directly next to me, the overpowering scent of cologne washing over me.
A glance showed me the stubble across this man’s chin, the easy-going smile and slightly wrinkled eyes giving away his age. Though his clothes looked vintage, it was more like he was trying to relive his glory days than make any sort of statement.
I clicked my tongue, annoyed, “I guess so.”
“You don’t come around often, figured you’d need a friend.” He looked me up and down, eyes searching.
“Are you enjoying the area?” the man continued to pry, ignoring the frosty shoulder I was giving him.
Instead of an answer, I began to type, pushing the arbitrary question from my mind. Of all the things to ask someone, of all the people milling about, why had it been me to catch this man’s attention? I should’ve waited for the campus center to open up in the morning.
“I like watching the tumblers,” the man spoke again, his voice just above a whisper. I nearly thought I’d missed it, when he continued, “spinning round and round and round.”
“Listen, I’m really busy right now and-”
“Aren’t we all?” the man smiled again, leaning his head back to look down his nose at me. “You’re gonna keep spinning until you’re dizzy.”
I set my jaw, shutting my laptop. “Listen, I’d really prefer if you leave me alone. I’m so not in the mood for whatever this is.”
“Not in the mood, not listening, what’s the difference?”
The difference was metal and ice, one didn’t necessarily affect the other, but it was all a matter of temperature. I could feel that same drop in his tone, so I listened.
“You just keep on tumbling, turning and turning,” the man began twisting his finger in a circular motion, chuckling, “but someday this spin cycle is gonna stop. Where are you gonna be when that happens?”
“What’s going to stop?” I leaned forward.
The man’s finger stopped spinning and he lowered his chin, level with me now. “You.”
“Ay! Lady, you gonna hog this washer all night?” I spun around, finding a round man with a deep scowl pointing to my washer, the dull ring indicating the end of a cycle.
“Oh, uh, sorry,” I stood, slipping my laptop back into my bag. I turned to say something to the man, but he was already walking down another aisle of washers, waving the back of his hand tauntingly.
As though he had left me with the remnant of a secret that could never be whole.
Kira Morris is a current Creative Writing Student working on her writing and learning how to translate her feeling through short stories and flash fiction. She tries to make her writing compelling, relatable, and thought-provoking.