I like to do my laundry at 3am. The motel I live in has a laundry room, but it is cramped, dirty and hot; so I lug my basket of dirty clothes down the street to the 24 Hour Laundry at the corner of East Twain and Palos Verde. They have free wi fi, it’s cool in the morning, and I pretty much have the place to myself. So my Sunday morning ritual is: get a giant cup of coffee at the 7-11 on Paradise, put my clothes in the washer,and watch something on Netflix.
These days I watch an episode of Habana Sparks, – and then do a little writing with whatever battery power I have left while my clothes dry. I was watching the second episode, the scene in the park with the African Drummer; when the new Laundry Attendant tapped me on the shoulder…
I thought he wanted me to move over so that he could mop up the floor where I was standing, but when I took off my head phones, he asked, “Are you a writer”?
“Well, I write every day, but” –
I was going to give him some stammering breakdown of what it is I do, and what it is I write, and end with something like, “I don’t know, does that make me a writer”?
But he cut me off, “I’ve got a story to tell, – how much would you charge, to write my story? I mean, do you do that kind of thing? What would be your fee to, you know write like 100 or 200 pages … I’ve got a story to tell.”
“Well, to tell you the truth – I’ve been wondering what your story was, so yeah, I’m gonna say yes.”
I wasn’t lying. I did wonder what his story was.
He is a big guy, and is no slacker. When I show up at 3 or 4 in the morning he is always busy wiping down and polishing the washing machines, or mopping up the floor. He is alert, and acknowledges my presence the moment I walk in the place. He wears Buddhist prayer beads (or a rosary) on the inside of his shirt, not on the outside as a fashion statement.
“I’ve got a story to tell man, I’m telling you. I’m from Camden, New Jersey – I don’t know if you know Camden” –
“Isn’t that where Harvard is”? A bad joke.
Nah, I could show you videos of Camden” –
“No, I know. I’ve been to places like East St. Louis, Liberty City, Watts – I know.”
“Right, but people think this is – but this isn’t – They killed my brother, and I came here, and people think, like that old lady with the quarters asked me, -don’t you get scared being here alone at night – and I’m like, no you don’t understand this is nothing. Camden is, Camden is like, like” …
He was nervous.
I could have told him to write his story himself, but not everyone has a way with words; and he seemed convinced that he needed a writer to help tell his story. So, I told him to write down some notes, and after I finished moving over to Harbor Island we could sit down with a cup of coffee, and take it from there …
We exchanged numbers, and he offered to help me move, (that’s what he does during the day) – so there it is.
I’ve given myself a deadline of September 1st to finish the first draft of a pivotal chunk of my memoirs. Every night I dream scenes of my science fiction novel, and now this: David’s Story.
I’ve got work to do.