Wise men say, “Don’t air your dirty laundry,” so I’m not going to do that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about the clean, but still very wet laundry that was spinning in the dryer in the garage when Sophia and I had our last fight in the house.
“I’ll take the Shuttle to the airport,” I said, grabbing the soggy clothes in mid-rotation and throwing them into my suitcase.
I walked to the laundromat by the post office, wheeling my luggage in like I was entering the marble lobby of the Four Seasons. A homeless man was washing himself in the sink. A grumpy African-American woman was reading Jet magazine; Fantasia was on the cover. I remembered when Sophia and I watched Fantasia win American Idol. How long ago was that? 2004?! Nine years ago!
I opened the suitcase on the cleanest linoleum counter, and tossed the damp clothes into the commercial drier. My brightly colored shorts and t-shirts — direct from summertime in New Zealand — created a colorful kaleidoscope as they spun, but they would do little to keep me warm during the cold gray wintery life of New York City.
In the front pocket of the suitcase was a New Zealand Paua shell that Juli gave me to take home. It was wrapped in a red towel. I carefully peeled the flaps of the flannel towel open, like a onion, or like a woman, to make sure that it was still in one piece.
Sophia called. We talked. We calmed down. She drove me to LAX. At the American Airlines terminal, I gave her my house key. In New Zealand, Juli gave me her house key, and I took it — a promise to return. And here I was, giving my other house key back to Sophia.
It was not the way I imagined leaving the house for the last time, wheeling out my wet clothes in a suitcase.