6 February 2024

The washcloth was hanging on the hook by the shower. I had received it in the mail earlier in the day and hung it up dutifully for later use. Yesterday, I had already noticed that the bar of soap was already not much of a bar. Today, it was looking much more like a mush of mashed potatoes. The water was running and hot so I stepped in. I wet the washcloth as the packaging instructed, macerating the mush to generate a rich lather. It felt like a waste of soap, that bit of mush was probably enough for today and tomorrow, but I wasn’t to want, the Kirkland size package was sitting beneath the sink, enough for more than a year of use. I had tagged along with my flatmate at the beginning of our lease to Costco. As we pushed through the warehouse, we judiciously chose our household needs: a pack of dish towels and a bail of toilet paper; an assortment of detergents, soaps, and cleaning products; oversized bags of snacks, vegetables, and frozen food. I thought about how, as a child, I would push that same cart through that same warehouse, differing only by geolocation and company, the company of my parents. But the bulk products and warehouse shelves and workers handing out samples to eager families were identical to my memory, a memory I hadn’t visited then in many years. Once again, we were buying things together, a haphazardously thrown together flat-family of three, furnishing and supplying our home, and finally sixteen bars of dove soap, the same brand as long ago, neatly boxed individually in paper and bound together in clear plastic, landed in the cart. Now, it was sitting beneath the sink, three bars short but providing me the mental comfort to use two days worth of soap in one. I touched the soapy washcloth to my arm, unsure how much pain my nylon exfoliant would cause.

It hurt.

Up and down my arms and chest, I scrubbed.

It hurt.

I wrapped the two ends around my hands like I had seen the Ojisan at the Sento do and rubbed the taunt cloth against my back. The memory of his bare hairy ass and unruly pubic bush with his flaccid penis barely peaking out was not the only noteworthy thing I remembered from my daily routine at the public bathhouses in Tokyo.

It hurt. Both the memory and the scratchy roughness on my skin.

Down and up my legs, I scrubbed, between my ass and crotch, to my feet and between my toes.

It hurt.

Layers of dead skin, imperceptible to the human eye, rolled off my body and into the drain. This was a new level of cleanliness I had never experienced. I hacked a cough and now I wish I could shove this washcloth down my throat to scrub away the muck in my lungs. Years of joints, blunts, and bong smoke followed by cigarettes, hookah, and vaporizers lead to a couple of occasions of month long coughs that would not subside. I wished desperately to rid myself of my dependencies but yet everyday I would wake up and sip vapor from a pink and blue device that no longer provided a high, only a relief from the eight hours of abstinence from the night before. But alas, I am only human, so I rung and hung my washcloth and rinsed clean what I could of my body.