No matter what your belief during those moments where a certain force seems to come into play and affect the outcome of a situation, you’ve got to admit that there’s been a time or two where you’ve stopped and thought to yourself “That was unbelievable”. Be it coincidence, destiny, or Divine intervention from a Heavenly Spirit, there just has to be something that factors into the end result at unexplained moments.
In the small town where I lived, there were two laundromats open to the public and zero facilities in my apartment. Being a typical, single male, I did my laundry every week or two, or whenever the dirty clothes on the floor became annoying. The one laundromat in town was newer, but seemed to always be frequented by a shadier, louder crowd. With children. So, I went to the ‘old reliable’. This laundromat was always quiet, probably because the poor quality of equipment sent everyone else across town to the other. I would do a crossword puzzle while waiting, plus on this day, I needed to fax my resume off to a potential new employer and the motel next door had a fax machine that I could pay to use.
On the walk back from the motel, a car slowed beside me as its passenger window rolled down. It was my best friend Mitch.
“Whatcha doing, snapper head?”
“Just sent a resume to that company that I was telling you about. And doing some laundry”
“Me too! Hop in”
It was only 400 yards back to the laundromat. Mitch had been on a laundry-beer-run after starting his first load of dirty clothes. The lighthearted chit-chat suddenly took a U-turn.
“Fred died last night”
His Father had been sick and hospitalized for some time, so it came as no surprise. Along with his vigilant family at bedside, Mitch had played some of his Father’s favorite music on a little boom box, some Johnny Horton I believe, as his Father left this Earth forever.
We cracked open a beer each and spent the next hour and a half talking about his Dad, memories of Life with him, and just telling old stories.
Fred was a big man, both in height and command presence. During the spin cycle, we laughed about the night that our friend Jay and myself had spent the night at Mitch’s house, on Halloween of all evenings. As twelve-year-olds, we were certain that Ricky Wilkins and the older boys in the neighborhood would be out later, terrorizing the neighbors with rolls of toilet paper and bars of soap. And WE were going to catch them in the act. Clad in only underwear, we headed out into the darkness, the backyard grass cold with an early dew. It was just before midnight as we began our patrol.
A crack of a tree limb froze us in our tracks like startled deer and we took a Three Stooges pose as we peeked around the corner of the house. A thunderous voice then bellowed from above our heads.
“WHAT are you boys doin’? Get BACK in the HOUSE!”
We scurried back into the den, scared silly with giggles as we crawled back into our sleeping bags.
The stories continued. Mitch had walked in his sleep one night right into Fred’s bedroom, thinking it was the bathroom, after going right instead of left. Fred woke and stopped him, just as Mitch lifted the toilet lid pant leg of Fred’s business suit draped over an upholstered chair.
Slingshots. Car stereos. Ex-wives. The order of the stories told was random, but perfectly in place.
I could always understand why Mitch had been doing laundry that day, just twelve hours after his Father had died. The world was spinning all around his head and he needed an escape for a minute.
But why had we run into each other that day? A random place, at a random time, doing a random chore. No one else had come into the laundromat during our entire hour and a half talk about life. Just two friends, sitting there drinking a beer, talking about things. After the dryer buzzed at the end of its cycle, the last of the clean laundry was folded, and we went back to our separate worlds. But closer together.