10 years ago, I started Tales from the Laundry Room on a different platform. I forgot about it. The internet didn’t. Enjoy.
The unnatural lighting painted a yellow glow over the computer. Janine’s eyes hurt, her head hurt. Fatigue is what they call it; she calls it burnout. With only one exam left, she should push through but she couldn’t. It’d been two days since she locked herself in this closet of a room. Pale yellow cinderblock walls decorated with spare ticky-tack and posters of Bob Marley. There was space for two beds, two desks, two closets, and one window. A window that looked at a red brick building identical to hers. There was just enough of a view to distinguish day from night. She closed her eyes, just for a minute.
Jumping to her feet with a start, Janine’s heart rushed to catch up to her breathing. It had only been a minute, right? Checking the light level outside the window, Janine’s worst fear was true: nighttime. Had it been hours? She placed her hand on her desk to steady herself. With her other hand, Janine slid the chair back only to have it bump up against the pile of books and papers strewn on the floor. She pushed a little harder so the leg of the stiff wooden chair could clear a path.
Closing her eyes again, she took yoga breaths: slow inhale, slower exhale, breath in, breathe out. Janine opened her eyes. They began to refocus. The clock said 8:02. The dining hall was closed; her stomach growled. She needed food, any food. Leftover pizza, burrito, tofu burger, and a Coke. Not a Diet Coke, a real Coke. Something with sugar and caffeine.
Janine looked around the stark room. Her roommate had already left for the semester taking with her things that would normally be left lying around. Only Janine’s things remained: dirty laundry, shoes, makeup, books, and one final exam. Although the exam may not physically be sitting in the room, it permeated the space the way the smell of fried fish lingers days after it’s been eaten.
Textbooks, reference books, handwritten notebooks, index cards scattered all over making it difficult for Janine to find space for her bare feet to step. She shuffled her way to her dirty laundry in search of a dollar or a quarter, heck, a handful of nickels. She bent down to dig in the pockets of her jeans, lint. She found another pair, held them up and shook them listening for the faint jingle of change. Nothing. With a deep sigh, Janine looked around the room then stumbled back to the desk. Maybe in a drawer? She pulled a little too hard and it flew off the rails, spilling its contents onto the floor.
Pens, pencils, and blank index cards littered the already messy room. Ugg. Nothing. She pulled the next drawer with a little less emphasis. It squeaked open an inch. She tugged again, another inch. Once again, she pulled, it opened, catching it before it also tumbled its contents. No change.
Janine began to feel desperate. Without concern for the papers and cards on the floor, Janine took two quick steps towards her roommate’s identical desk. She flung open the top drawer, nothing. She yanked at the second drawer, ching. She heard a ching.
As she pulled the drawer wide open, she saw money. One penny, two dimes, a nickel, and a quarter, 51 cents. Janine scooped up the money and pushed it into her pocket. In two more steps, she reached her dorm room door and without regard for locking it, she left, barefoot, to race to the soda machine. The rest of the world may charge $1.50 for a Coke, but at DU, sodas only cost 50¢.