There was a laundromat on Damen, close to the house thank God because dragging your laundry out into the City of Chicago was never an easy task. The machines were kept clean enough and if you knew when to go, you could avoid the mothers with all of their children and 15 washers worth of dirty clothes.
It was a spring evening after work, still cold enough to wear my brown, fleece-lined, flight jacket unzipped. It was originally my father’s jacket, a gift he bought himself many years after he left the Navy. I inherited it after he died- well not right after. I first had to finish grade school, then high school, then flight training in college before I felt right about wearing it and before it would fit, frankly. It was one of the only things of his that I owned.
After transferring the clothes from the washers to the dryers, Jenny and I stood in front of the laundromat smoking, she in her black leather motorcycle jacket and me in my brown leather flight jacket. A short man with bleached out blonde hair and red skin came wandering up Damen and stopped to ask us for the time. We gave him the time. He asked for a light. I gave him a light and as I pulled my hand away from his leathered face he cocked his head back and said, “God bless white skin.”
At that moment, I knew that both Jenny and I were prepared for a physical altercation with this dirt bag. We both stood at least ½ foot taller than him and both outweighed him by at least 30 pounds. Jenny stood still but ready and said nothing. I tried to move past the tense moment and deflect the conversation by asking him, “What do you have written on your hand?” This confused him and he mumbled an answer about needing to write things down to remember them. Whether this was because he was completely fried by alcohol or crack cocaine, I could not say.
The man continued to smoke and began to compliment my jacket. He said, “That’s a nice jacket.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I see you’re wearing my jacket.” I said nothing. He then suddenly transformed and attempted to appear menacing and intimidating. He threw his hands up aggressively, his body exploded with energy, and he yelled in my face, “GIVE IT TO ME!”
I stood quite still. He looked like a pathetic little elf to me, trying so desperately to be evil but his heart just wasn’t in it. He was a shriveled up, bitter, racist junkie and if he wanted my father’s jacket, he was going to have to peel it off my cold dead body. I didn’t flinch. I stared at him emotionless and unmoved. Jenny stood smoking, ever ready to intervene if required.
Our behavior visibly freaked him out. I guess he did not expect it from two women in their late 20’s. He started to chuckle, turned his body away from me, and leaned towards the direction he was originally headed. He tried to play it off as if he was kidding and then proceeded to ask me if I would go back to his place and have sex with him. Now it was our turn to laugh very hard. He turned to Jenny and said, “She’d probably have sex with you before she’d have sex with me!” Jenny said, “Pretty much.”
He wandered off. Our laundry got done. And I still have my jacket and this story to tell about it.
-Copyright C.M. Mounts, December 2014