They need a laundry basket. That is the initial situation, and no easy problem to solve: While Leo has no objections to plastic, ebonite or polyester, for some months now Maria feels a longing for simplicity and nativeness. Of course it should have been obvious to her that both would be hard to find in a low-income-countryside IKEA. However, she stands in front of raffia baskets reeking of chemicals, everything in this IKEA reeks of chemicals, and she realizes just how ardently she dislikes raffia. Raffia’s undoubted awfulness never crossed her mind before. It reminds her of the braided carpet from her old nursery in her parents’ first house, the carpet on which she constantly bruised her knees during play, and that later, in her parents’ second house, after the first one had burned down because of an unattended Christmas tree, still was the cause of many of her anxieties. She met her first girlfriend and her parents came to their own conclusions, realizing through their daughter’s scratched elbows and back that Gina probably didn’t come over to play with Barbie dolls or whatever 16-year-old girls who weren’t the most obviously tomboyish lesbians in the early 2000’s played with. Fortunately, Maria’s parents always were cool and stayed cool back then. Only in front of her grandparents, she could never mention Gina. That is to say, she couldn’t until four years ago, when her grandmother had just passed away and her grandfather had been unresponsive to anything for two years already, and thus she courageously told the plant-like, grandfather-shaped being in the hospice bed about the woman who was not her girlfriend anymore. Maria remembers that he looked at her with watery, expressive eyes that said “I knew that, kiddo”, but she is also aware that she merely remembers it that way and that this moment didn’t happen at all. There was no response, and furthermore, her grandfather not once did call her ‘kiddo’, ever.
As Maria examines the first one in a row of tacky raffia baskets in various underwhelming shapes and colors, her memories of Gina resurface in full detail, which she likes, because she liked Gina so much. But she doesn’t want to be reminded of her first girlfriend whenever she is in charge of the dirty laundry, howsoever metaphorically adequate that might appear. Beatriz wouldn’t be happy about that, either. Beatriz, much like Maria’s parents, is cool and would stay cool when faced with an hideous raffia basket, but presumably not if it is nicknamed “Gina”, and Gina’s worst feature has always been her name anyway. Maria detests Gina’s name even more than the scratches and bruises from that braided carpet, which was terrible and tasteless, but so charged with childhood memories that Maria only got rid of it very recently, when Leo moved in and she didn’t want him to be permanently exposed to that dirty old thing and the memories.
Leo stands close to the less natural laundry baskets and patiently waits for Maria to accept her endeavor’s futility and find her way back to the wholesome, proven and durable synthetic products that will fit much better into their cluttered, trashy little apartment. He has already decided on the item whose cost-benefit ratio is the most attractive to him, but he has no reason to act impatiently. Leo isn’t the type to ever be eager or impatient. Maria is that type, and she has every reason to be: she has a date at the town’s low-income-countryside movie theatre, far away from IKEA’s impossible laundry-basket-based decisions. But she already knows she will dislike the film she and Beatriz are about to watch, hence she sees no reason to hurry. She can procrastinate her disapproval of dying cinema.
The raffia baskets grow into menacing, bottomless, braided black holes. Maria remembers the tree. She was nine. She remembers how everybody still believes that the unattended Christmas tree was the cause, and not her, who, some weeks prior to the incident, had started to play with matches in the living room and then, on December 21, 1995, also singed some of the tree’s needles because they smelled and popped so funny when they burned. Remembers how the singed needles developed into a burning tree branch and how she became afraid and then, as children do, simply left the room, believing the fire to stop once she didn’t look at it for long enough and told absolutely nobody. Remembers how happy her parents were when they found that the sole survivor of the fire was this enchanted, horrific, merciless braided carpet, free of soot and scorch marks, and how she never thought about any of this even though the carpet lay in her room, on display twenty-four hours a day. That is to say, almost never, only when the carpet left a new bruise on her knee again. Remembers how she told Gina, even before Gina became her girlfriend, and how she never found the courage to tell anybody else, not even the grandfather-shaped plant in the hospital who did not call her ‘kiddo’, not once.
Gina has a daughter now, a cute, alert and brainy kid, and sometimes the two meet up with Maria, and every now and then Maria babysits the little girl, and although there is no braided carpet in Gina’s apartment, Gina always uses a raffia bag for grocery shopping, and occasionally Maria wonders whether that is intentional, but Gina isn’t like that.
Finally, Maria nods in Leo’s direction, who triumphantly grabs the purple plastic basket he ogled at for the last twenty minutes. Maria doesn’t like purple at all.
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