Ron Clementson – Quinn Cain

by Quinn Cain

It has been five years since the passing of his wife, yet Ron Clementson still does her laundry. He doesn’t like the way her clothes smell when they sit in the closet too long without being worn, dust creeps in and the fibers become stale. Every two weeks, he walks down four flights of stairs to the basement of his apartment building, and does two loads of laundry. The first load is usually composed of a few personal items, mostly sweatpants and socks, while the second load is far more intricate.

Sunday evening is Ron’s favorite time to do laundry. The machines are usually empty because everyone else has already finished their chores, and he is able to bring down his radio and listen to Billy Joel, his wife’s first crush. He plays it loud, but not loud enough to mask the humming of the rotating drums in the background.

The first load is fairly straightforward. Ron approaches the washing machine, opens the door, and with one sweeping motion lifts his sweatpants and socks out of the basket, and into the empty compartment. He pulls three quarters out of his right front pocket, and inserts them through the slot along the metal panel, turns the dial to Normal, and presses the Start button. As the water begins to fill the machine, he pours a half a cap of green colored detergent to the indicated line, and closes the lid. After this, there is nothing left to do but wait. Once the cycle has expired, the same process is done when transferring to the drying machine. It doesn’t really matter what setting to place the timer at, as long as the clothes come out dry. Ron finishes his first load of laundry before starting the second, folding promptly after drying to completion.

Ron takes his sweatpants and socks up four flights of stairs to his apartment, where he spends a few minutes opening drawers and closing cabinets before making his way back to the closet. With the now empty laundry basket, Ron makes his way to the back of his closet. Placed above him are four neatly staked piles of clothes, which he places in the basket and promptly steps back out into the light. A sudden rush of delight greets him as he casts his gaze across the brightly colored fibers crawling on top of each other in the basket below. He makes his way back down the four flights of stairs, with speed and purpose, eagerly waiting to begin his second load of laundry.

The first load usually tends to take around an hour and forty-five minutes, so it is usually well past nightfall as Ron begins his second rotation. In the past five years, only one time had there been another person doing laundry this late, and Ron knows for a fact that person no longer lives in the building. He enjoys the privacy, because it allows for a more intimate setting, one that is loud but silent all at the same time.

This time, Ron is more careful when placing the items into the washing machine. He reaches for his silver Panasonic RF-P50 Pocket AM/FM Radio. He presses softly on the dial and rotates it slightly upwards towards 97.3 FM, his favorite 70s, 80s classic rock station. Gripping the device tightly he uses his thumb to pivot the knob to a volume that is just loud enough to make him forget where he is. Turning back to the machine he lunges out with his left hand and firmly pulls the basket close to him. With a slight grin, he reaches in and picks up a lemon colored sundress with white, lace straps, and shakes out the wrinkles. She wore this dress on their third date.

He remembers because it was the first time he kissed her, and her lip-gloss tasted exactly like lemon. He told her she looked like she tasted, but she didn’t think it was funny so she made him wait until the fifth date before she would kiss him again, and that was just fine with Ron.

He took the dress in his right hand and placed it gracefully on the bottom of the drum.

Next, he looks over to the basket and picks out a small black T-Shirt that reads Fleetwood Mac in gold lettering, suspended over a picture of the band.

She had worn this to every concert she went to, even if it wasn’t a Fleetwood Mac concert. She didn’t care and neither did Ron because she looked good in it and she knew everyone else thought that too. Ron loved how they enjoyed listening to the same music, but now he doesn’t go to concerts because he doesn’t think it’s worth it.

He uses his hands to crumple the T-Shirt into a ball and tosses it in the machine.

He then pulls out a pair of Levi’s Genuine Blue Jeans out of the basket and tosses them over his shoulder. He pulls out three more T-Shirts and drapes them around his neck. He reaches to the bottom of the basket and grabs on to the remaining items, pulling them upward towards his face, inhaling deeply as the scent pierces through his nostrils. The wooden closet has spoiled the fresh scent of the green colored laundry detergent; the kind that his wife had always said was the best smelling kind. Craving that familiar scent, Ron disrobes the laundry from his body and places everything in to the machine. He reaches for the green detergent and drizzles the liquid throughout the inside of the drum, not worrying about filling to a certain line. He then grabs hold of the dial and turns it even further upward to Heavy Duty, signaling the rush of water flooding inside of the machine. Ron watches as the water slowly consumes the clothing within it, starting to bubble as the temperature reaches higher and higher. Ron presses Start, firmly shuts the lid, and takes a step back. He listens deeply to the pounding of the rotating drums, as the beat becomes synonymous with the music in the background. He can feel the machine working—the gears are churning, the belts are pulling, the motors are pulsing. Time is slow, but the machine is fast. Ron stands there with his eyes closed for the remainder of the cycle, hoping it just might last forever.

The timer sounds, and Ron takes a moment to readjust before opening the machine door. He can smell the green detergent filling the air with the distinct smell of clean. He rejoices in completing the first cycle, as he begins to transfer the clothing to the dryer. He turns the temperature up to its highest setting and presses Start as fast as he could. The deep humming electrifies the room and the clothes beat ceaselessly against the metal drum. Ron puts his hand on the top of the machine and can feel the warmth escaping from within. He closes his eyes and imagines holding his wife’s hand tightly, the way he used to hold it each time they sat in the doctor’s office together, wondering what they were going to tell them next. Ron would hold one of her hands between two of his, and squeeze as tightly as he could, using his thumb to stroke the back of her hand. He imagines her warm body between his arms when they used to wait for the bus to take them to the hospital in the middle of winter.

The timer sounds off and the machine crawls to a halt, as the humming, too, begins to subside. Ron leans up from the top of the dryer, and takes a long breath. The clothes inside are still loud from all the heat, as the hot air escapes from the chamber. Ron promptly folds his clothes, and makes his way back up the four flights of stairs, returns the laundry to the place it will sit for the next two weeks, and crawls in an empty bed.

This piece originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Issue. Photography by Jose Ibarra.

Open Mic Night

The Alcalá Review will be hosting its semi-annual Open Mic Night this Thursday, October 25, from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm at Aromas on the USD campus. All are welcome to watch or perform. Bring a used book to donate for a chance to win prizes! Come out and share your new creative material! Support USD’s artistic community! Democratize art! Get a free sticker! It’s your right as an American.


Drowning – Katie Collins

by Katie Collins
“How do you want to die?”
He asked it suddenly, thumbing the pages of a forgotten book in his lap.
Fairy lights draped incandescent around the saguaro. Winter in Arizona.
“I guess I would want it to be quick,” she said. “What about you?”
He leaned over, grabbed her hand, laced his fingers through hers, squeezed.
“Anything but drowning,” he exhaled. “You know I can’t swim.”  
The pool water breathed. A bee circled lazily on its edge, dipping one leg in, two, a wing.
The rest happened all at once: four more legs, a second wing, thorax, head.
She could have used the skimmer. The bee only needed a platform.
It didn’t struggle long.
He took her to Caruso’s for dinner after Christmas.
The restaurant only seated forty and had Italian-import marinara sauce.
The waiter brought out the dessert cannolis and two forks, cleared their dinner plates.
She stuck one candle in each, a 2 and a 4.
She always thought 24 months sounded more serious than two years.
He laughed and blew out the candles. “Happy anniversary.”
She found him outside that summer, hung on a velvet mesquite.
The branches were sturdy, hardly splintered under his weight.
The saguaros loomed stark against amethyst mountains.
He hadn’t picked a high enough branch.
She looked up what happens to a body hung without its neck breaking.
Carotid artery closes, capillaries burst.
Oxygen isn’t cut off fully for almost ten minutes, hanging.
How long does a minute feel while you’re dying?
She hadn’t seen him in six months.
At the funeral she spoke about the time he’d thrown up on their jet ski ride in Puerto Peñasco.
His mother planted cactuses in November.
In spring they bloomed bruised magenta.

This piece originally appeared in the Spring 2018 Issue. Photography by Lauren Koumelis.

Breaking the Barrier

An Interview with USD’s Border Angels

by Ale Esquer

This Spring 2018, I found myself lost during the Alcalá Bazaar, USD’s annual showcase of on-campus clubs and organizations.  This mishap however, did lead to a surprisingly fortunate find: learning about the USD chapter of the national organization, Border Angels. I was fascinated by what I heard, even from the first few minutes of chatting with active members at their table. The group,  relatively new to USD, is a chapter of the larger organization, a non-profit established in 1986 by Enrique Morones, whose focal point is based on protecting migrants on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border. One of their current projects, for example, is an ongoing fundraiser for Haitian refugees in Tijuana. As for USD’s chapter, their main work has been based on collecting funds for two kinds of volunteer work: day laborer outreaches and water drops. The first is based on meeting with day laborers around San Diego to look into their wellbeing, supplying them with food and hygiene products, and keeping them informed on the legal resources that the organization can provide for them. The second, organized water drops, consist of volunteers going into the Southern Californian desert and placing water along migrant paths. These water drops are aimed at preventing the fate that many migrants face while attempting to cross into the United States: death by dehydration.

Since joining, I have realized that a surprisingly small amount of undergraduates know of the group’s existence, the same position I was in before that fateful Alcalá Bazaar. Due to this, and because of the importance of their work (especially pertinent in 2018’s political climate) I secured  an interview from some of the lead organizers in the group, to excavate some insight into the organization, as well as the nuanced relationship between USD, San Diego, and the border between the US and Mexico.

Hi! Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview! If you don’t mind, could we start with your names, your roles in Border Angels, and how long you’ve been involved with the group?

KM: My name is Kimberly Riveros, and I am currently a vice-president for [USD’s chapter of] Border Angels. I established Border Angels on campus last spring [2017].

WM: I’m Wendy Martinez. I’m a junior. I’m the current president. Like Kim, I joined last spring, when it first started.

MP: My name is Maria Parra, I’m a second year, and I’m the treasurer. I also joined when it started.

So, before we talk about anything else, could you tell me what Border Angels actually is?

WM: Well, Border Angels is just a way for us here in the USD community to be informed about what’s going on with these immigrants, with the things that they go through as they cross over into the United States. It’s also a way for us to be active in that community. I think the whole purpose of it is to try to get students to get a wholesome, raw experience while they’re out in the desert, while they’re interacting with these immigrants, making sure that they realize that there’s more to their story than what media portrays, or what they might think they know. I think it’s really just about bringing awareness to the USD community and opening ourselves up to these new experiences that, while they may be uncomfortable at times, do allow us to grow and really understand something that really isn’t talked about.

KM: We also strive to educate people. For anybody that has any questions about the organization, we’re always more than happy to explain what we are, that we are advocating for human rights and human lives. We don’t stand for any political group at all, we’re just for human rights and saving people. At the end of the day, that’s what it really is. With the desert water drops, for instance, we are hopefully preventing somebody from literally dying of dehydration.

I was going to ask how you first hear about the group, but given that two of you were the founders, I wanted to know how that idea actually came about?

KM: Well, I first heard of Border Angels my freshman year, so two and a half years ago. It was close to my community back home, so I started volunteering with them. Then I found out that the founder of Border Angels is actually a USD alumnus, and then I found out that other universities, like CSU San Marcos, had chapters. I was like, “Why don’t we have a chapter, if Enrique, [the founder of Border Angels] graduated here?” I remember that he told me that there was no Border Angels club at USD, that [he said] “You should start it,” so that’s what motivated me.


MP: I wasn’t part of the founding of this club, but I did join because of Elena and Kim. I met them my freshman year and when they started it I decided to join.

What has your experience with the organization actually been like? Has it been different from what you originally expected?

KM: It was different because I didn’t think it was going to be that hands-on. When I first started volunteering, I didn’t know what to expect, and my first volunteer experience with the organization, before it was even established at USD, was a water drop, and it was during the summer, so it was super hot, and it was super eye opening. I didn’t go with any of my friends, so I met a whole new group of people that had the same interests as me as far as immigration, and here, in the U.S., so, yeah, it was very eye opening.

WM: I went with Kim my first time, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I think it was scary; I was like a deer in headlights the whole time, because I didn’t know what to expect. I feel like that’s the thing with a lot of new members, they don’t know what to expect, and come out like “Oh, that wasn’t that bad.” After we got into it and warmed up, we were fine. It was just a matter of breaking that barrier, those first impressions, and being like, “this is what it’s all about, this is why I’m here, these are just regular people that weren’t born into the same circumstances that we were”, and realizing that privilege and why we were there to help. For me, it was very raw, very real, just empowering, honestly, to be more involved in the community, in what really isn’t so far from us here at USD.

MP:  I haven’t been to a water drop, but I’ve been to day laborer outreaches and I was really nervous going in. I didn’t know if we were intruding going in, if we were going to make them upset. I didn’t know what to expect, but getting to talk to them was really nice. Some of them were… I felt like they thought we were pitying them, and I felt bad for that, like we weren’t doing the right thing, but there were other people that were very grateful, and they were happy for the lunches, and even just for being able to talk to people. They’re there for a long time, just by themselves, so it was nice for them to see new faces and talk to new people. It was really nice, I really enjoyed it.

How would you describe USD’s relationship to the border and the organization?

KM: I know certain groups on campus do go down to the border and do some community work, but if we’re talking about the whole student body… a lot of people just don’t know about Border Angels. There are many times when we go into the meetings, and ask for a show of hands of how many people have heard of Border Angels, and usually, only a couple of people raise their hand, if that. We’re not really known that much, but I think we just need more time, since we are really new.

WM: I think that relationship with the student body here will get better the more well known we get. We are starting up, we are fairly small, our events are not really as well known as they should be… This [Fiesta Night] was our first big event and I feel like we’ve done really well for our first try. I think the student body, at least some of them, will be interested in the work that we do, it’s just a matter of getting them here and making sure that they are comfortable going to these events. Like Kim said, the University does have different opportunities for students to engage with the border, and I think it’s all just a great opportunity for them to, once again, make sure that they recognize the community that’s not too far from us and their different circumstances from where we are right now.

KM:  I feel like USD as a whole has done a good job in helping us establish ourselves. We just need to work on getting more connected with other organizations. Little by little, it’ll grow.

Lastly, for anyone who reads this, how could they best support Border Angels, and what would be the best way to reach you if they have any questions?

KM:  Come to our meetings! Learn about it. Like we mentioned before, like Wendy mentioned, at first it can be scary, but think about volunteering. It’s hands-on, so it is very nerve-wracking, but once you get there, when you’re surrounded by all of these people that share the same morals as you, and are, in a way, fighting for what you want as well, and for some kind of justice, it’ll really be worth it.

MP: I think it’s really nice for people to just come in to learn about it, because we are living in this USD bubble and, here, it’s a whole different atmosphere than just going down the street, so actually going down to interact with the day laborers, or going on the water drops… they are real eye-openers, and real learning experiences.

KM: The best way to support us would really be to reach out to us and come to our meetings. Our info is on Torero Orgs, so if they email us we’d be able to answer any questions anybody might have. As far as supporting us, just being open to those experiences and events that we have, not making assumptions of what it’s all about, really, just going into this with an open mind.

This piece originally appeared in the Spring 2018 Issue. Photography by Lauren Koumelis.