at the laundry

It’s very early. The warm air is full of dew. The place is empty, and almost elegant now that it is stripped of the bright fabrics and plastic bottles and bored women. Only the man who runs it is there, passing a load of whites from a metal cart into a dryer. There’s a radio on, in Chinese. The man comes over to weigh my bag. Then the radio switches to English, but it’s not a radio after all, it’s a language lesson. “When-will-the-car-be-ready?” The soothing voice asks three times, each with a different inflection. Then another round, Chinese and back to English: “I-am-ready-to-face-tomorrow.”

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