Wash Guilt

The summer of my eighteenth year, for the first time in my life I began staying out too late. I had been adrift in adolescent confusion by then but was finally giving my mother concrete trouble.

[..] One night, returning to the dark house, I slipped into my bedroom, turned on the light beside my bed, and saw my mother’s list pad lying there. Printed neatlt on the top page in my mother’s large round lettering were two words: “wash guilt”

[..] Wash guilt, wash guilt. What was this about? What was my mother trying to tell me? Why couldn’t she be normal and yell at me?

[..] Sometimes it felt as though I had a screeching parrot in the room, repeating harshly, “Waaaaash guilt!”
[..] For a week I wallowed in those words. They didn’t necessarily change my behaviour [..] but I wore those words like a hair shirt

Then one lovely miraculous day, it must have been sunny and clear, I came home, went up to my room, looked at the list pad – and it read: “wash quilt”


Heather Atwood Rockport Massachusetts – True Tales of American Life edited and introduced by Paul Auster

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