Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I’ve forced myself into the Laundromat today. After a week on the road, I need to wash everything. Usually, I like it here, but today, I’m not feeling it. Usually, I get the laundry going and go outside to juggle, but today I’m just sitting outside on the curb, watching the world go by, feeling some kind of funk that I can’t even identify.
As I walk into the building to check on the progress of my two loads of washing, I pass by a very blonde little girl. She’s sitting on one of the green, molded plastic chairs that grace the periphery of the Laundromat. Playing a hand-held video game that makes very loud, very annoying electronic noises. Across the room at the dryers, a worn looking woman of about fifty chastises her at regular intervals for no particular reason I can see.
The little girl is heartbreakingly cute, her blonde hair in a little pony tail. As I pass by her, she looks up at me and sticks out her tongue. Seems about right for this day, I think, and I keep walking. Behind me, the worn-out looking woman’s shrill, scolding voice is backdrop. I check my laundry and exit through a doorway at the other end of the building, to avoid them both, and take up my former seat on the curb, by the traffic.
Then I notice a tiny presence behind me, and I look over my shoulder. And there is the cute little blonde girl, just standing there, looking at me. Come by to stick out her tongue at me again, I assume. She says something to me and smiles. She doesn’t stick out her tongue, and she doesn’t go away. And finally, I realize the sticking out of the tongue wasn’t aggression. It was flirting.
Charley is four, by her own volunteered account (name changed her to protect her privacy). I ask Charley if she likes juggling, but she doesn’t seem to know what that is. Don’t go away, I say and I head for the car to get my juggling balls. She follows me, close, curious.
There follows a long session of me juggling for Charley, and Charley showing me what she can do with the balls. She is particularly fond of the glitter balls, especially the pink one, and she really enjoys throwing them. Every time she throws a ball across the parking lot, I praise her form and distance. Older woman in the background chastises her every time, I’m not sure why. Charley explains to me that the older woman is her grandmother, and that gram “took me, because my mom couldn’t do it.” That explains a lot.
Charley is taken with juggling, but she also finds glittery balls a lot of fun in themselves. Grandma never does warm up. She keeps on folding clothes, or just standing in front of the dryer, watching it go around and around and occasionally offering a scathing comment to four year old Charley, who seems oblivious (a skill I wish I could learn, or buy, from her).
Now grandma has all the clothes folded and it’s time for Charley to go. Can you fall in love in twenty minutes? My relationship with Charley is proof positive. In parting, Charley holds the pink glitter ball up to me, an earnest and disarming smile on her face. Then she runs away.
Moments later, she is back, standing there, waiting for me to look in her direction. When I do, she says to me,