Suds n Duds in Altus, Oklahoma

Suds n duds in Oklahoma. Pastel peach chairs line the window and painted pot plants spill greenery on the checked linoleum floor.

It’s soothing, the whirring of dryers and the jingle of someone counting quarters. The air smells of warm clothing. Outside, the sun is bright and the wind bitter.

The land is dry and beige. It’s difficult to find the horizon, there are no mountains.

A gas attendant tells us it is so flat he could see his dog running away for two days. He does not smile when he says it.

In the corner, there’s a Mrs. PacMan game and an empty 25c gumball machine. A toy machine sells fidget spinners. The cardboard advertisement is propped against the small disperser. It could have been there for ten years already.

Women have two shapes in these small towns. They are either all sharp edges or soft and doughy. There is no in-between.

The men are squat and suspicious, with eyes narrow at the sight of unfamiliar faces. Everyone seems to be having back surgery.

‘How’s your back?’ they ask each other and shake their heads.

At Walmart, I’m taken for ‘military’ and when I tell the girl behind the counter I’m Australian, she tells me that I’m the first one she’s ever met. She looks 15 and her fringe falls into her eyes when she speaks. She wears a blue t-shirt with the town’s name on it.

‘Altus born and bred’.