I’m Doing This For You

February 9th, 2014

Marcie ran up to the apartment courtyard gate and unlocked the door. Her fingers quivered in the cold, and she put her weight into the motion as she swung the heavy door open. She scrambled up to the stairwell in her apartment.

Five floors up. She panted, excited. She unlocked the door and dropped her school backpack on the floor, her Hello Kitty pencils falling and rolling onto the ground. She yanked her shoes off and put her homework on the table. It could wait.

“Mom?”

She crept into the her mom’s bedroom, peeked around the corner. Her mother lay, snoring in bed. She wore her grease-stained fast food restaurant uniform; and her feet, which were still covered by her shoes, hung uncomfortably off the end of the unpadded mattress.

“Momma.”

Her mother rolled over and groaned. She swallowed and cleared her dry throat, rubbed her hot, puffy eyes.

“What, sweetie?” The hollow words carried no emotion.

“You promised we could play my new game.”

“Oh.”

Her mother sat up.

“Can we play? Can we play?” Marcie repeated, faster and faster.

Her mother groaned again as she stood. She surveyed the messy room – Days and days of work, school, and lack of cleaning had piled up into clutter and laundry piles. She looked at her own shirt, stained with fast food grease.

“Marcie, honey, I have to do your laundry before it closes at five and I have to start dinner right after-“

“Can’t we do that later?”

“If I don’t do laundry today, you won’t have any clean clothes and-“

“After you do laundry?”

“After I do laundry I have to make dinner, I told you that.”

“Can’t we do that later?”
 

Her mother stuffed one more shirt into the washer and forced the door shut with all of her weight. She poured an extra helping of detergent into the compartment and waited for the machine to start. She sighed and wiped the sweat from her forehead, smearing her face with a mess of grease and detergent.

“No – You naw do dat!”

She looked up. A short, thin Asian man with a piercing voice and eyes like nails pointed at her. He shuffled over to her, scurrying like a crab or some other crustacean.

“Too full- Too full.”

“Too full?”

“Yeah, yeah. Too full. Too many.”

She looked at the washer as it started to spin.

“Well, what do you want me to do? Stop the machine? Open it?”

The Asian man looked at her, grudgingly.

“Next time, you naw do dat!”

He shuffled away.
 
 

She slogged up the steps, first floor, second floor, third floor – take a breathing break – fourth floor – take a breathing break – fifth floor. Marcie sat in the living room, with her new board game set up and ready to play.

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t want dinner, I want to play the game.”

“We can’t play right now, we have to eat, because I have to go to work at 5:30.”

“But you said we could play.”

She looked at Marcie. Sighed.

She walked to the freezer and pulled out a bag of chicken nuggets.

“Chicken nuggets and French fries.”

“I don’t want that, I had that last night

“Sweetie, I don’t have time to make you-”

“I don’t want it. I’m not gonna eat it unless we play the game!”

Her mother slammed the freezer door shut. She yanked a plate out of the cupboard, slammed the cupboard door closed.

“You don’t want chicken nuggets? FINE. I need to eat because I’m going to work in forty-five minutes, and I need to do the laundry and check your homework and make you lunch for tomorrow and press my clothes, which are probably not going to be dry by the time I have to leave for work.” She grabbed a fistful of freezer burned nuggets and stacked them on the plate and shoved it into the microwave. Four minutes – High power – start.

Tears trickled slowly down Marcie’s face.

“Momma… I just-“

“I know, you just wanna play your game.”

She got out the bread and peanut butter and jelly.

“But momma…”

She slapped a glob of peanut butter onto the bread, tearing through it. She scraped it together to form a mangled sandwich, and slid it into a plastic bag.

“Honey, I’m just doing this for you.”

“Stop doing it for me.”

The timer beeped.
 
 

Her mother ran into the laundromat, carrying a napkin full of chicken nuggets, trying to avoid the ominous glares of the Asian man. She slowed as she approached the washer as she realized that it wasn’t finished. She stopped to catch her breath. She looked around.

Her hair was still greasy from the morning shift. No time to shower. Her dirty slippers barely covered her swollen feet from the cold.

She lifted a chicken nugget to her mouth and bit into the soggy, cold, processed meat as she watched the washing machine go around and around, around and around, around and around.

“I’m doing this for you.”

 
 

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