turning 23

I haven’t been to the laundromat in months. A couple nights a week I’ll throw a pile of sweaty clothes at my sister, “this too!” as she trudges out the door, arms wrapped around her dirty waitress uniform. She has to buy a new apron every few weeks. The pen stains and the food stains and the fact that the apron is “fuckin white,” eventually push her over the edge of shout-it-out and into the realm of “I’ll just buy a goddamned new one.” She takes the clothes to her boyfriend’s house. They take turns doing laundry and they compare how they fold clothes. My sister, like me, doesn’t actually fold clothes. We do roll our socks up though. Sissy’s boyfriend folds his socks over. I know because she texted me about it: “Look at this! Who does this?”

I think about my sister and her boyfriend, sitting on his bed, carefully picking out their fresh laundry, looking at each other’s things as if, maybe, they all belonged together. I can see them there because my sister tells me about their time together; she lets me be a part of her relationship. We are a part of each other in all things. But, still. The edges fade and the scene goes black. I don’t know what they did after they folded their clothes. Maybe they had a pillow fight. Maybe that’s their very favorite secret past time. Maybe they got online and watched porn. Hey, I don’t know. All I know is that Grant folds his socks weird.

Sitting at the laundromat now, I feel a deep sense of calm. I can’t remember the last time I was here, but I can remember that I was job hunting. I was editing my resume. I had a half ass dryer that kept popping open. I went home with a damp quilt. It took days to dry on my kitchen table.

The whirring of machines, the smell of detergent, the twinkly lights of the laundromat cafe. And me, alone. I almost asked my sister to come with me. She’s at home, lying in her bed, scrolling through a Chinese takeout menu on her phone. “Sinful Sunday!” she proclaims, and I ask that she get at least one thing without meat.

I miss my sister a lot these days. We don’t see each other as much as we’d like. Our schedules are forever just different enough to keep us apart. I almost invited her to the laundromat. For a date I guess. Today, as we sat in the living room watching Pretty in Pink (“80’s movies are weird”), I told her that we could talk during commercials. She muted the TV and turned to me.

“Yesterday, this girl came up to me and told me my shirt was really cute and,” I paused as Sissy laughed. “What?” “Jesus, Sissy you told me this story four times yesterday. At least four,” she held up four fingers. I grinned and finished the story. Maybe that’s our dilemma–one of us is always too drunk to properly communicate with the other.

Or maybe, it’s just that we have too much to say. We’ll come home and talk over each other for a solid two minutes. And then we stop. We silently stare at each other. I choke on my words. There are too many at once. We mill about the house. She tries to read. I look up a recipe. And then we start again, taking our time, stringing all of our words together so that we may share all of our stories.

Every time I’ve been to the laundromat, I’ve spent my time trying to whittle down the chores of my life. I sit at this counter and attempt to organize the big and small parts of my existence. Today, I feel different than I have before. I thought I should probably blog while waiting on my clothes. I sat down to type, nervous about what may spill out. I’ve been anxious lately, wondering and wanting and pouting over those not so organized big and small parts. And then I thought about my sister and Grant’s socks.

And here I am now, just happy to have the beauty of a moment that isn’t even my own.

My sister and I turn 23 in one week. I do not like the sound of that. I do not want to be 23. I feel young when I say, “22.” I feel like 23 means I have to make decisions. At 23 I need to stop saying that I am a recent college graduate. At 23 I need to stop getting so drunk that I tell the same story four times. At 23, I need to know a little more than I knew at 22.

I’m not sure how to quantify all that has happened to me in the past year. May is a month for milestones. I graduated from college a year ago today. I wore the honors of honor on a sticky Sunday. Now my life is all sticky Sundays in the heat of a South Carolina spring. Did I know I’d be here when I left there? What in the actual hell has happened in a year? That’s a long time to go around being only kind of sure of yourself.

Everything changes; everything stays the same. On Friday night I got out of the shower, put my pajamas on, considered going out. I sat on the futon next to my “sick” sister. “My forehead’s hot. Feel it. It’s hot right?” I told her I was in a funk. She asked why, and in the way that those questions have of making you cry, I cried. She pulled my head into her lap and gently stroked through my wet hair. “It’s okay, Sissy.” 

And it was, and it is. I’d be lying if I said anything about 22 was easy. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the luckiest girl in the world, to have someone go through 22 with me. We’re in stride. Good days, bad days. Together we tip-toe and stumble and leap into everything new and terrifying. This knowledge of the depth of our connection brings me a sense of peace. I don’t want to turn 23. But I don’t really have a choice in the matter.

So we’ll hold hands and turn 23 together. We’ll blow out candles on the same cake and we’ll each probably celebrate with too many beers. And then we’ll keep going. We’ll keep rolling socks and throwing clean clothes on top of dirty ones. We will continue to order pretty bad Chinese takeout on Sunday nights. We will feel each other’s foreheads and agree that we are sick. We will fight and we will make up and we will tell all of the stories that only we care about. We will be 23. And then next year, we’ll do it all over again.

Happy birthday to us.