June 25, 2020
I started work as an aide at a nursing facility. After school I would drive down the long industrial park, and the lonely driveway that led to the halfhearted facade that greeted its “visitors”. We rarely got visitors, outside of the health inspectors that remembered the building’s old nickname, “murderplex,” all too well. I would park out back and submit to the time clock that had the same cracked screen the whole six years I worked there, a memento from one of the countless aides that crumpled under the weight of steaming bed sheets and buzzing flies. Walking down the wallpapered hallway towards the elevator, you almost get used to the marble white eyes that float within the doors. You barely notice the dull stench of urine that follows each frantic mumble, scratching and pleading and begging through soft, wasted mouths.
It’s when the mumbling stops and the shuffling feet finally rest that I would get my guests. Down in the basement I would spend my nights loading drums of soiled laundry, and making sure the sectors each had enough linens to last them through the next day. The steady humming of the spinning drums are a welcome distraction to miscalculated silence. Time your loads just right and you’ll have whitenoise the whole shift. Work too fast or too slow, and there’s nothing to hold your attention.
When folding laundry, keep your eyes focused on the folding table, and not the open doorway to your left. Try not to look into the glass windows when unloading the drums, and if you do, don’t make eye contact with them. If they need something, they will ask. The hum of the machine will drown out all the noise above, all the ghosts of the night: people waking up and forgetting where they are; Pain medication wearing off and the dread that seeps from the dull yellow lamps. The hum will even cover up the footsteps up and down the hall, and the knocks at the door, and the calls on the intercom. It’s late, after all. No one ever needs anything on this shift. Eventually the humming stops. The humming will stop, and the footsteps don’t stop at the door anymore. Try not to pay attention, and don’t look out the door. Haul more clothes from the washers, so that the knocking on the window will stop. Fill the drier again, so your bag will stop sliding across the table. If you press start, the breath on your neck can be steam from the machine. Worn buttons click against the metal drum, and they stop standing in the doorway. The humming starts again. Keep your eyes on your feet, and walk out the door.
Edited by Diva Williams