Goodnight I say to the owner. Goodnight, goodnight. Goodnight goodnight goodnight. First it is me, then him back to me in his accent that I am sure is Telugu not Hindi, but what do I know I’ve never been to India, then it is the Persian man then the white lady folding the comforter, the last two say it to me the way customers in the laundromat always say it to one another. Part kindness part yawn. Wordless I get it I feel you but am too tired to cared. It’s a goodbye that looks one another in the eye and noddlessly says I know.
In the street I move out of the way so I don’t get hit putting my clothes in the back seat of my car. The moon isn’t out yet but there are satellite-sized stars. Or maybe they are planes not going anywhere just hanging in the sky. I think about stopping for drive thru tacos and even take the first right off PCH to double back, but then think again and end up doing a big square around the block. I drive home with the book I am reading on my mind. The story of mothers and daughters and how love lets people down. Told by a first-generation American woman whose heritage is Iran. Or she is Persian. I know enough to know that it’s a matter of personal choice, the term for her that most means home.
Goodnight goodnight goodnight, all these languages and we say the same thing to one another at night. Good night. A catch all, a may you travel well into the dark. May you sleep. May you go forward, undisturbed. I think of the novel I just finished by NoViolet Bulawayo about kids in Africa, about losing their homeland, about what it means to be exiled. She is a black African who lives in the States. I think it again, we all use different words but Goodnight it always means the same thing.
I had school all weekend and saw clients today, goodnight goodnight goodnight. I think of them, the residents at rehab, I think of me and drug addiction, dead friends, mental health. Stigmas and the language we all use. Body language, language of mutters, lies told with eyes open staring straight into yours, moist and seeming to respond but maybe that looks the same for some people as staring straight ahead. I think again of mothers and daughters, of using words and messing up and how we all are always trying again and again, no matter how many mistakes later, to get things right. Funny same human story of aching pain and longing, and happiness and peace that’s fleeting, and childhood, and good night good night good night. I went to the ocean for the sunset, I read on the beach, it was windy and people had on sweats and jeans. I got in the water anyway and I was seized by an outrageous pushing. I breast-stroked and with each gulp of air sending me under again thought the name of every woman I know in pain and some breaths for some men. I swam a long, long time. Then it was all out of me, the sky was pale blue, the sun perfect and orange in a ball with no light lost to the sky, and almost in to the sea. I floated on my back and felt still again.
Later at the laundromat my body was so tired folding clothes that I had to move in measures, nothing fluid or sudden because my muscles felt like lead. I wanted to come home and eat then sleep but the words started and I knew I should cook something instead of really cheap gutrot fast-food. So I just finished dinner, and am glad to be writing, and thinking of language, and home and loss and human hearts, that go on beating no matter where they come from. No matter what they’ve seen. Same old beat, no matter what.
Goodnight, goodnight. Goodnight.