Of Scarcity and Trauma on Independence Hall’s Clothing Lines

By: Ochi Maduabuchi Nnamdi

Imagine this, it’s Friday night and the weekend is approaching, free and clear of activities. You decide you’re going to wash tomorrow, after all, today has been tiring and you sorely deserve some sleep.

Haha! Sorry. Why am I laughing you ask? It’s simple; everyone knows that you’re not going to find any space to dry those clothes tomorrow. In Indy? Forget about it. From Saturdays till Sundays, the lines are so full that you often find people hanging their clothes on the bushes.

Okay, okay, so you’ve learnt. You’ll let this weekend pass you by, you won’t make your move now. Instead, you’ll gather all your dirty clothes and attack them on a weekday (or night). By then, the tides of clothes would have receded and space would have opened up.

So Monday night, you wash as many clothes as you can, spot a few mostly empty lines, and claim your spot there. A particular article of clothing catches your eye, a red and black striped shirt. It looks cool, you think as you return to your room to sleep.

Tuesday night rolls by and you bring in Monday’s clothes (the sun was particularly generous all day), the shirt is still hanging there. You wash another batch and return on Wednesday. The shirt doesn’t seem to have been moved. On Thursday, a particularly strong storm seems to be on its way. In fact, it has already started drizzling, you rush out to bring in your clothes, and once again you see that same red and black shirt!

Ah ah, the owner doesn’t seem to care about the shirt at all! Okay na, that one concerns him. You manoeuvre your clothes into your room and lay them in your bed to begin to take stock of the clothes you have brought in.

Your white shirt is there. Your blue trousers too. Everything seems to be in order until you realise that one of your shorts was not there. Ah! Maybe you left it outside, but if that’s the case then it would be soaked by the time you get it. But you can’t go out in the rain. So you wait in your room, fretting silently about it.

Finally, the storm seems to quiet down and you rush out with your torchlight, almost like a madman, to the place where you last remember to have kept it. It’s not there again. No, this can’t be, you tell yourself, and like a night watchman, you begin to march up and down, examining each line like they were criminals, hoping to find your missing shorts.

But to no avail. Saddened, you return to your starting point, noticing that the red shirt had gone from the line, finally. But you are mistaken because you look down and see that rather than return to its owner, it had gone to join its brethren, the ancestral clothing found on the floors around the washing lines, whose origin many do not know. They were there when you arrived, and they will be part of the legacy handed over to the incoming freshers.

Friday draws near and after a stressful day of classes and tests, you come back to your room, to sight some clothes that have survived the washing genocide. Ah! 4 days of little sleep to reduce these clothes and they were still there.

You are tired and you think to yourself, I’ll do the washing tomorrow, I’m free on the weekends. A familiar story.

But everyone has a story for their encounter with these line. Some can’t carve out time on the weekdays, and contribute to the Weekend Rush. Others set up new lines where there were none before. Some lose on the line and some gain. Some have brought good clothes to the line, and had them returned with a stain.

People might come and go the lines are always working.

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