I struggled from my Chevy to the Laundromat's automatic door, limp-walking, balancing the laundry basket's weight against my stomach. As the glass slid open, I paused before entering.
To my left, a red-faced brunette paced across the pavement, making a scene. Her wrecked hair was tied up in a haphazard bun. Dressed in a peach shirt, jeans and red slippers, she looked like she was sick.
Presumably hashing things out with her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, she screamed into her cell: "I'm sick of this! This is over!"
She gripped the phone so tightly that her right hand appeared neon crimson when the hot, yellow yolk of sunlight hit it. Flipping the phone shut, she stormed over to sit in the driver's seat of her blackish Camaro. Hands on the wheel, she spaced out, staring out the front window, as if play-driving.
I went inside, mentally making a bet that her argument wasn't over. Then I put my mound of clothes near some washers, claiming them as "mine," scoring quarters from the testy machine.
Separation. The wash was running. I went back outside.
Camaro Girl yelled at the phone again. I couldn't understand her litany of words, but I got this much: Her relationship wasn't over, but her car's life was almost over — the back end had rusted into Swiss cheese-like paint.
Raised voices intrigued me, made me uneasy, more alert. All the time growing up, in my house, we fought through silent treatments and looks. Not once did I hear my parents yell or bicker.
Sounds nice, but one problem: Stuffed feelings lurked, later turning into internal pain that festered and boiled until one day it lived, exploding. For all of us.
Back in, spin. Then, during drying time, I went out for a smoke.
Left foot hanging out the car door, one red slipper about to fall off, Camaro Girl redialed, yelling, "Who do you think you are?" and then hanging up. She called again. This time no one answered.
I started feeling for her. I knew this: If she wanted it to be over, she wouldn't argue. Arguing was talking. A stunted connection, but still a connection. Tangible. Real.
When I ended relationships, my style was to fade out — quiet partings with hidden tears. I handled it alone, in my room or car, mouth shut. Like I said, I grew up in a silent house.
At first, I thought her display was embarrassing. Then I started wondering if maybe her route was better; it was oddly freeing. She was troubled, but at least she said so, however messy and public it was.
Finally, she left. She didn't peel out. Instead, she crept away, as if surrendering. It seemed quick, the change in her moves.
Losing loved ones. In the past, to deal with emotion, I hugged animals, overworked, cleaned, threw jewelry over the Big Mac Bridge, drove around, went to The Comet wearing pajamas and armed with chocolate. I didn't even like chocolate. Maybe I wondered what the ex was doing, wishing I had ESP.
Later I cried over something unrelated or stupid. Like, when it was time to fold the sheets, I got teary because no one was there to catch the other side.
I normally acted conservative. Never raised my voice. Rather than calling friends for moral support, I usually spent entire days creating collages on my bedroom wall. The entire wall.
Take my ex-boyfriend, Ethan (name changed), for instance. We were together two years ago. I was even attracted to his hands. Even one finger. God, we laughed.
But one Fourth of July, he returned to drinking. It got worse from there. I felt deeply worried and furious, but instead of reacting I quietly hugged him and we broke up.
Ethan soon disappeared until this past December, when he died. That morning, I wished his ghost would appear. I tried picturing him. I thought, what if I would've screamed at him instead of holding everything inside? I wondered about missing words, missing scenes. What if?
Folding, I thought about what I meant to say. That I prayed for him nightly. That I hated him for drinking, leaving. That I loved him. That, deep down, I knew his route was going to steal his life. Simply, I wanted to see him return and get well.
Driving home, I cried and yelled at Ethan's ghost, cussing him out, telling him everything ugly, making it real. Then I yelled at others I'd lost, making it all real. Creeping slowly down the street, I felt lighter, better. A small victory, but enough release for one day.
Home. Putting clothes away. Around me, a quaint efficiency, cluttered walls, a clean room, a simple, artistic life.
I called the cats to dinner. Around me, the echo of my voice.
CONTACT C.A. MACCONNELL: letters(at)citybeat.com. Living Out Loud runs every week at citybeat.com and the second and fourth issues of each month in the paper.