Soap

She had been frugal her whole life, but it was the one extravagance she would allow herself. She had long ago cast off that repressive religious tapestry of her youth, to forsake adornment in favor of simplicity. Although she could never be considered “flashy” it was no longer a pivot point in her life. Although she had kept the frugal part. After 20 years on a fixed retirement income, she knew there was merit to being frugal. But at this point she didn’t care. She was going to continue to buy the Japanese Cherry Blossom Hand Soap at the Walmart Store even if it was more expensive than the Walmart brand. There were many hand soaps but this one excited her more than any hand soap ever should. It was a pleasant pink shade in an attractive rectangular bottle that tapered at the top.

She first bought it on a whim and when she smelled it, she was lost in a fantasy of sailing on cherry blossom winds, under pastelic hues of the sky, with a horizon that seemingly resting on a bed of gold from a stingy sun, reluctant to give up the day. Full moons and starry nights, royalty, riches and romance. Her tiny feet in sandals with wood blocks on the bottom, shuffling short steps. Her white silk kimono, smooth and sensuous on her skin, with the protective high collar that contrasted with barely concealed curves.

She kept the Japanese Cherry Blossom Hand Soap in the bathroom as though it was a secret, and found herself walking out of the way to wash her hands, often sniffing her cupped hands during the day. It made the Women’s Auxiliary Guild meetings more tolerable when she would rub her nose or cheek to sneak a smell. And again she was transported into a forbidden fantasy. Her audible gasp once elicited questioning glances. She smiled.

She had never traveled but did go to Duluth once, for cousin Millie’s wedding to the preacher Carlton Stone. She thought it must be like San Francisco with it’s hilly rolling streets near the shore. There was a restaurant called Grandmothers and behind was a circus tent where she heard Dr. Hitt and his Big Band play old swing tunes. She danced with her cousins and they drank too much. The next day Millie married Carl. He didn’t have a nose as much as a beak. She grinned as she thought that he could spear a bug in the corner if he wanted. He also had large ears unevenly perched on either side of his thinning hair. Still, Millie had found someone to love and someone who loved her back. But not her.

As a teenager her family had stayed at her Aunt and Uncle’s house during a revival weekend. Lying in bed upstairs next to Millie who was already asleep. In the old house the heating ducts were just holes in the floor with screen covers that amplified the voices of the adults. She knew she shouldn’t listen but she couldn’t stop herself. The mumbles of her Dad and Uncle in the other room, and her Mom and Aunt gossiping, talking house and Bible verses and their worries. That’s when she discovered her mother worried about her. That she had diminished prospects because she was plain and unremarkable. She had suspected in her heart that it was true, but until then it had been an amorphous feeling. But her mothers words were a fixative to hard set a form. At one time a lover, husband and children were everything. But that time had passed.

What if she went to the Walmart Store and the Japanese Cherry Blossom was gone? A twinge of anxiety. Maybe she should buy a case of it just to be safe? Maybe two? She smiled at a thought; when she had literally sailed into the horizon, someone, she couldn’t imagine who, would find stacked cases of Japanese Cherry Blossom Hand Soap and think she was eccentric. What would she care?

Gazing at her hands she was pleased the migrating rich cherry color of her knuckles tapered into her porcelain skin. She rose from her chair to wash her hands. She had the cleanest hands in town and maybe the dirtiest mind. No one would ever know. Because she was plain and unremarkable.

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