BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. I'm 18 and pre-cellphones every alarm made the same disastrous noise. It's 1 A.M. and that means the dryers at the laundromat are free so I grab my laundry bag and walk across the soundless complex parking lot. I've done this enough by now that the old security guard from the neighboring complex meets me in his lot with his golf cart and drives me to the laundromat. "Shouldn't you be asleep?" We laugh every time because it gets more true every time.
He drops me off and I walk past a group smoking in front of the tattoo shop and past the Wendy's. There are some milk crates by the dumpster. Potential furniture. I leave them and walk into the laundromat. It smells like detergent and a thrift store. There's a man on the floor in the corner sleeping next to bags. There's a young couple doing their laundry. We talk about the guitar making school I'm going to. He's a marine. We talk about places he's been. We talk about what we want to become. If he's tired his almost constant smile hides it. They eventually finish and as he's leaving he stops and looks me square in the face and gives me one of three moments of assurance I've ever fully accepted:
"Matt, this is going to work out for you. You're going to make it happen. I can tell.”
Honed by years of self-distrust my brain took the split second necessary to do the usual rundown of reasons to discount positive reinforcement. The usual excuses felt made up. My system failed and what he said landed. Hard. I remember he was wearing a white shirt, I remember his haircut, I remember we were in the northwest corner of the room. I remember his face when he said it. The moment felt confusingly pivotal.
I finish my laundry, grab a couple milk crates on the way home, and take this picture.