What’s behind the washing machine?
I sighed in frustration. A pair of mismatching socks peeked from the corner of my peripheral vision. They were trying to desperately merge into the basket on top of the rumbling washing machine as it sighed in asymmetrical patterns of cartoon shirts being tossed around in a whirlwind.
“Take Jeremiah out of the laundry basket again, will you.” A thread of voice accompanied by a short head of imperturbably ironed hair peaked from the boiling ovens and stoves.
Mothers always had this way of asking you to do things in a half-condescending, half-motherly tone; and the problem was, you could never say no.
A flurry of red-heads bobbing up and down carried tiny capricious insults followed by a compendium of “I’m going to tell mum!” as three dimpled seven year olds attacked me on both sides. A cat followed, carrying its fluorescent shadow behind.
“Juan, Jessie, Jules, get off me!”
Yes I know, Mother must have had some strange obsession with the letter J to have all five of her children’s name start with it. Or maybe she just liked the particular way it rolled off her tongue. I was left to guess. I imagined her with her bloated belly, a name dictionary in her hand as she impatiently flipped it to a section and chose the first four names in line.
With the plastic peeling basket in my arms containing my baby brother (who still thought he was Invisible Man), I meticulously made my way through the labyrinth of childish mess: the laundry room. A half-fledged second later, a set of quicksilver claws lunged past me and tried to pathetically grasp for the washing machine top.
Haywire broken-down gasps and whispers of frustrated smoke were almost enough to send my brain into a shambolic mess; but I was used to this. To all this mess of corrugated pots, half-shaded notes and velleities made out of Lego blocks. I felt like I was watching my life through a distracted agape window with tainted glass. Everything would happen in a blur and if you lost count of only one second, you’ would be left behind.
The obese tabby cat managed to roll over the washing machine and fall behind the gap. Rolling my eyes, I set down the basked and started prying my way behind the machine. After a few jumbled exhales and a layer of sweat creeping over my pale skin, the washing machine stood a few meters apart from the decomposing wall. Crouching in a rather awkward position, I crawled behind the robotic incessant machine. The cat pounced out as the first column of light hit its grass eyes and he made his guilty escape to the kitchen.
It was a mess. My eyes hungrily scanned through the objects that had never touched a ray of light in the past five years. A total mess.
Lost memories were intertwined with false arguments from repressed mistakes and, before me, was my family’s guilty life.
At the very back of the washing machine, lay a collection of hairbrushes trapped in strands of auburn hair. A set of dusty images crawled their way up to my mind as I remembered all the times I had carelessly dropped one down and pretended it never happened.
My most recently lost black hairbrush stood linked arm by arm, like a bride and a groom, with the cheap makeup my older sister would buy on her drunk nights out.
Receipts of undoubtedly useless objects I would most precariously buy (and hoped my mother would never see), were balled up angrily and dispersed on the melancholic floor. With one motion, I frantically stuffed the fading paper into my pockets before anybody had the chance to see them. Nobody could keep secrets in this house: once somebody knew something, it would spread like wildfire. And soon enough, someone would be in trouble.
Dead plants in corrugated pots with fading hand-painted patterns lay soulless and cracking, for all the times I had made useless efforts to tell myself to shower them. And one week later, they would lie with their thorns chopped off, petal less. With each grumble and vibration against the washing machine, a new crack would surface and I looked away with shame.
Flattened under the pathetic pots was a collection of tear-drenched pictures of my sister and her multiple boyfriends she had broken up with. They stood tall and proud, like they were trying to make some statement I never understood. These were accompanied by badly written down depressed ballads that she would write on her post breakup period. I could almost hear the ghosts of wails that would slither in threads to my room every time she lost a tear for a boy.
In contrast to the savagely still photos, were the lost Pokemon cards I had always fought for with my siblings. Flashbacks of cut down insults and angry tears brought a lopsided smile to my face. Oh, what could I get in exchange for these prized hidden possessions!
Candy wrappers were buried in trembling obscene words that looked like they were written on the back-seat of a car. For the irony, guilty looking sharpies lay next to them, red handed.
The mercury poisoning of my siblings, a Nintendo DS, lay in the middle of the mess, as if it already knew it was the reason of all the hushed arguments Mother and Father would have when we faked our slowed heartbeats and dreamless nights.
Under all of it, were bags of chips we had secretly sneaked into the shopping cart. We blamed each other when Mother found them at the cashier register. They were then to be discarded by a pair of lazy hands and kicked about until they were never to be seen again.
I swiftly stood up, half hazed, and pushed the washing machine back against the wall. As I exited the laundry room, I knew one thing for sure: I would never go back into the maze of hidden memories behind that churning machine of tomato sauce-stained shirts.