I don’t mind going to the laundromat. It’s surprisingly pleasant. It’s very clean, and it smells of soap and the warm clothes that have just come out of the dryer. Boppy pop music plays, cheerfully but not too loudly. There’s a dish of mints by the front door, and a magazine rack with new issues of Vogue and Car and Driver.

martha's vineyard laundromat comic

There’s a long, wide counter for folding clothes after you take them out of the dryer and a change machine that gives you quarters for bills, even if they are twenty-dollar bills.

The laundromat cat is named Rock Star. He’s black and white, and has only a stub for a tail.

Rock Star is very healthy-looking, not the mangy kind of cat you might expect in a laundromat, and has excellent manners. Unlike other cats I have known, he doesn’t gravitate to the exact place where you’re trying to get something done and plant himself there; he doesn’t lounge on top of the clean clothes you’ve just folded, or rub against your leg, waiting for you to trip over him.

martha's vineyard laundromat comic

The best thing about the Laundromat is Griece, the beautiful young woman who works there. “Hello, my love!” she says when I walk in. Griece is from Bahia, Brazil, and her name is pronounced “Grace.” She has a son, Victor, whom I haven’t met. Victor is seven and is in second grade.

martha's vineyard laundromat comic

Griece never stops moving—wiping down the long Formica counter, sweeping up the used dryer sheets and lint that fall out of people’s clothes when they take them out of the dryer, washing and folding the clothes for the customers who pay extra to leave their laundry and pick it up later.

I seem to need Griece’s attention more than the other customers. Sometimes the change machine doesn’t ‘like’ my bills, and Griece has to re-insert them another way. Sometimes my quarters get stuck in the coin slot on the washing machine, and the coin return button doesn’t seem to work right, and Griece comes and presses the coin return button, retrieves the quarters, and put them into the slot. And sometimes I can’t get the handle on the washing machine to lock, and Griece has to show me how to do it, again.

martha's vineyard laundromat comic

I feel bad about needing her help so much.

Once, when a quarter wouldn’t go down the coin slot on one of the dryers, I hit the slot with the palm of my hand. Griece came over and put her hand on my arm. “No, no, no, no no,” she said, firmly.

martha's vineyard laundromat comic

“That can break the machine.” But she wasn’t mad; she spoke the way she might speak to Victor.

Recently, I brought in a big load of laundry. At the bottom of my laundry bag was a wadded-up dishtowel that I’d used to wipe up cake batter when I was baking a cake. I’d left the dirty dishtowel for several days in a corner next to the back door of my house, waiting for me to take it to the laundromat.

When I took the dishtowel out of the bag, many, many tiny brown ants were crawling all over it. Panicked, I shook and shook the dishtowel. Dozens of brown ants fell off the dishtowel, skiddering around on the clean counter and on the floor.

I took my plastic detergent container and started smashing the ants that were running around on the counter. I stomped on the ants scurrying around on the floor. I thought of my Buddhist friends, glad that they weren’t there to see me.

But mostly I thought of how I had brought an invasion of ants into Griece’s clean laundromat. I was horrified, and ashamed, and I kept whacking away with my detergent container and squashing them under my feet. But many of the ants refused to die.

I needed Griece again.

“Griece! I need a broom!” I said. “I brought in ants! I’m so sorry!”

And Grace smiled and said, “That’s alright. I’ll do it”

“You can’t do it! It’s my fault!” I said.

martha's vineyard laundromat comic

I swept the ants, dead and alive, into the dustpan, brought them outside, and flung them into the parking lot.

For the rest of my time in the laundromat that day, I kept checking the counter and the floor, looking for any ants that had gotten away. I didn’t see any, but it seemed likely that some had escaped me.

I could hardly look at Griece when I left, but I did apologize again, and I said goodbye.

“Goodbye”, she said, as if nothing bad had happened at all.

martha's vineyard laundromat comic